ISTANBUL: Turkey will clear north-east Syria of Kurdish YPG militia if Russia does not fulfil its obligations under an accord that helped end a Turkish offensive in the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
Under the deal hammered out by Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Russian military police and Syrian border guards are meant to clear the YPG fighters from within 30km of the border over a period of six days ending on Tuesday.
From Tuesday, Russian and Turkish forces will start to patrol a narrower, 10km strip of land in north-east Syria.
“If this area is not cleared from terrorists at the end of the 150 hours, then we will handle the situation by ourselves and will do all the cleansing work,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul.
Regrets EU failed to provide $6.7bn it promised to help house and feed around 3.6m Syrian refugees
Russia has already warned the YPG that it will face the full force of Turkey’s army, the second biggest in Nato, if it fails to withdraw its fighters and weapons from the designated area in north-east Syria within the agreed deadline.
Erdogan also accused the European Union of lying because it had promised six billion euros ($6.7 billion) to help house and feed around 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey but had only provided half of that amount. Turkey has spent around $40 billion euros on the refugees, Erdogan added.
The president repeated an earlier threat to send the refugees to Europe if European countries failed to provide more financial support to help resettle them in a “safe zone” Ankara wants to establish on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey.
“If Turkey’s plans for the return [of the refugees] ... is not supported, we will have no choice but to open our borders. We would open the borders, they can go to Europe,” he said.
In a move sure to further infuriate Ankara, a former prosecutor and UN investigator Carla del Ponte said in an interview published on Saturday that Erdogan should be investigated and indicted for war crimes over the incursion.
“For Erdogan to be able to invade Syrian territory to destroy the Kurds is unbelievable,” said Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.
“An investigation should be opened into him and he should be charged with war crimes,” she told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende in an interview.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2019