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Turkey to take 'necessary steps' in Syria following YPG attack, says Erdogan

Turkish president signals new military operation in Syria, blaming Kurdish fighters for attack that killed two policemen
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack that killed two Turkish police officers was 'the final straw' (Reuters/File photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Monday to respond to an attack by Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria that left two Turkish police officers dead.

"We have no patience left in some areas that are a source of terror attacks aimed at our country from Syria," Erdogan said after chairing a cabinet meeting attended by top ministers.

"We are determined to eliminate the threats emanating from Syria with our own means," he said in televised comments. "We will take the necessary steps in Syria as soon as possible."

Two Turkish police officers were killed and two others were wounded after an attack reportedly carried out by the YPG in Azaz, where Turkish forces control Syrian territory, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

The officers were killed after YPG forces struck their armoured vehicle with a guided missile in the Operation Euphrates Shield area controlled by Turkey, the ministry said.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), with which it has been locked in a deadly war for three decades.

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The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency against the Turkish government for greater Kurdish autonomy since 1984, in a conflict that has killed some 40,000 people.

The group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, is based in the Qandil mountains of Iraq, where it is often the target of Turkish air strikes.

The US, however, does not recognise the YPG as a terrorist group and supports them as an extension of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group it has trained and equipped to fight the Islamic State (IS) group.

US support for the YPG has emerged as one of the major flash-points in the Turkish-US relationship.

Last week President Biden extended a Trump-era executive order deeming Turkey's military campaigns in Syria a national emergency, stating it posed an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States". 

"The situation in and in relation to Syria, and in particular the actions by the Government of Turkey to conduct a military offensive into northeast Syria, undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," the White House said in a statement.

Turkey launched its first military campaign into Syria in 2016 as an attempt to create a buffer zone between its territory and land held by the US-backed Kurdish forces.

Ankara then carried out two other operations against the YPG, one of which targeted the Afrin region in 2018.

Tensions have risen recently as Turkey has stepped up its military campaign against Kurdish forces in both Syria and Iraq.

Last month Erdogan accused Brett McGurk, US national security council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, of "supporting terrorism" due to his close proximity with the PKK and YPG.