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Erdogan signals ground operation into Syria 'God willing soon'

By AFP - Nov 22,2022 - Last updated at Nov 22,2022

A Syrian fighter fires a turrent in the back of a 'technical' vehicle during military drills by the Turkish-backed 'Suleiman Shah Division' in the opposition-held Afrin region of northern Syria on Tuesday (AFP photo)

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey would "soon" launch a ground operation in Syria against Kurdish militants following air raids.

"We have been on top of terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and drones," Erdogan said in a televised address. "God willing, we will root out all of them soon with our tanks, artillery and soldiers."

Turkey on Sunday launched Operation Claw-Sword, hitting Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq and Syria after a deadly attack in Istanbul.

The government has blamed the November 13 bombing on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

The United States late Monday urged de-escalation and Russia said Tuesday it hoped Turkey would exercise "restraint" and refrain from "excessive use of force" in Syria.

Erdogan said his government knew "who protects, arms and encourages those terrorists", in a veiled reference to Washington, which relied heavily on Syrian Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.

He said Turkey was patient enough, "not because it was desperate", but because it was loyal to diplomacy.

"The road has come to an end for those who think they can keep Turkey waiting by playing with letters and changing the name of the terrorist organisation," said Erdogan.

Turkey considers Syrian Kurdish militants as a terror group linked to the PKK.

"After this moment, there is only one measure for us, there is only one limit: It is the security of our own country, our own citizens," Erdogan said.

Russia on Tuesday called for Turkey to exercise "restraint" and warned against "destabilising" Syria, where Ankara has carried out air strikes and is threatening to launch a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters.

"We understand and respect Turkey's concerns regarding its own security. We believe this is the legal right of Turkey," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"We still call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to seriously destabilising the situation," he said.

He added that it could “boomerang back and further complicate the security situation”.

The Kremlin’s comments came as representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, major players in the war in Syria, meet in the Kazakh capital Astana for trilateral talks on Syria.

Russia’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, told reporters earlier in Astana that “We hope to convince our Turkish colleagues to refrain from resorting to excessive use of force on Syrian territory” to “avoid the escalation of tensions”.

“Russia has for months... done everything possible to prevent any large-scale ground operation,” Lavrentyev said in the Kazakh capital.

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