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Turkey ready for Syrian operation

By LIU XUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-09 07:41
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Members of the Syrian National Army take part in a military drill in Afrin district on Monday. The Syrian National Army, a component of Syrian opposition forces, held the military exercise near the border with Turkey in support of the Turkish Armed Forces. The exercise took place ahead of Turkey's planned operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. BURAK KARACAOGLU/ANADOLU AGENCY

Turkey said on Tuesday it had completed preparations for a military operation targeting Syrian Kurds after the United States began pulling back its troops, while Syria called on the country's Kurds to rejoin the government side.

But US President Donald Trump warned he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it took action in Syria that he considered "off limits" following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 US special forces personnel from the border region, Reuters reported.

Turkey's Defense Ministry said that the establishment of a safe zone/peace corridor is "indispensable for Syrians to have a safe life by contributing to the stability and peace of our region".

"Turkish armed forces will never tolerate the creation of a terror corridor at our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed," said the ministry.

The US pullout will leave the Kurds in Syria vulnerable to the incursion planned by the Turkish armed forces, which brands them terrorists, according to Reuters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Ankara has already made its decision for clearing northern Syria of "terrorists", vowing to launch a military campaign at any moment, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Controlling the east of the Euphrates River, the People's Protection Units, or YPG, the Syrian Kurdish fighters, were a key partner of the US in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, called on the Syrian Kurds to return to the government rather than "plunge into the abyss", a reference to the expected Turkish incursion, according to The Associated Press.

His comments were published in the pro-government daily Al-Watan on Tuesday, the first Syrian reaction since Trump's abrupt decision to stand aside along Syria's northeastern border with Turkey.

Mekdad said the homeland "welcomes all its sons" and that Damascus will solve all Syrian problems in a positive way, without violence.

He said Syria will defend all Syrian territory and will not accept any occupation.

In a statement late on Sunday, the White House said the US military "will not support or be involved in" an expected military operation by Turkey in northern Syria, and US forces "would no longer be in the immediate area".

However, Trump also threatened on Monday to destroy Turkey's economy if the country takes a planned military strike in Syria too far.

Li Weijian, a researcher at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said it is a "trend of the times" for the US to bring back its troops as the country's interest in Syria "has gone".

Although the process was delayed by multiple factors, Li said the withdrawal of troops from Syria was Trump's goal from the outset.

"Trump has said he will no longer seek to overthrow the Syrian government. And the Islamic State group has basically been defeated," he said. "There has been no legitimacy and interest for the US to stay."

Li also pointed out that even with the US withdrawal of troops, its influence on Syria's political process and postwar reconstruction will remain.

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