Turkish president slams US-organised 'border force', and says preparations are complete to attack canton of Afrin
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday promised he would stop a Kurd-led border force being created by the US, and said final preparations were under way to invade the Kurdish canton of Afrin, as tensions rose once again between the ostensible allies over Syria.
His speech in Ankara came a day after the US announced it would form a 30,000-strong border force led by the Kurdish YPG militia - a group Turkey regards as terrorist and linked to the PKK organisation in Turkey.
A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our border. Our mission is to strangle it before it's even born
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our border," said Erdogan. "What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it's even born."
"This is what we have to say to all our allies: don't get in between us and terrorist organisations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences," Erdogan said.
"Either you take off your flags on those terrorist organisations, or we will have to hand those flags over to you... Our operations will continue until not a single terrorist remains along our borders, let alone 30,000 of them."
Erdogan also said that Turkey's armed forces had completed preparations for an operation against the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin in northwest Syria. On Sunday, he told members of his AKP party: "If the terrorists in Afrin don't surrender, we will tear them down."
Russia also opposed the US plan, warning that it could lead to the partitioning of Syria.
YPG forces move through Raqqa after the defeat of IS (Reuters)
The plans for a border force include 15,000 fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militia dominated by the Kurdish YPG.
The forces are expected to be deployed along the border with Turkey, in northern Syria, the Iraqi border in the southeast, and along the Euphrates River valley.
The SDF played a strategic role in helping the US-led coalition in Syria defeat the Islamic State (IS) group.
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Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, warned that for Turkey, the US-backed border force was a "slap in the face" and has inflamed tensions between the two countries.
"Even though the relationship has come under duress, they are not going to cut the umbilical cord the two sides have," Gerges told MEE.
"If it were up to Trump then he would give up on the Kurds and ask why America is infuriating Turkey.
"The fact is that the Kurds have been the most loyal and vital ally to the Americans. They have shed blood to destroy the base of the Islamic State and this matters to the US."