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Turkey to carry out operation in Syria east of Euphrates: Erdogan

President says Ankara is prepared to act on its own against US ally YPG in northeast Syria after delays on safe-zone terms
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - has lost patience with 'harassment fire' (AFP)

Turkey will carry out an operation in the area east of the Euphrates river against US-backed Kurdish militants, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday. 

Erdogan said during a motorway-opening ceremony that his country has run out of patience towards "harassment fire" by the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdish PKK militias considered a terrorist group by Turkey. The YPG was the main ally of the US in its battle against the Islamic State in Syria. 

He said he had already notified the US and Russia of the planned operation, the third in Syria in as many years. 

"We entered Afrin, Jarablus, al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates. We shared this with Russia and the US," he said. "As long as harassment fire continues, we cannot remain silent."

Turkey and the US had agreed on the creation of a safe zone free of YPG militants along Syria's northeastern border with Turkey, but Turkey has accused Washington of stalling on progress. 

On 24 July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed that Ankara had rejected Washington's latest proposal for a safe zone in Syria, which was delivered by US special envoy James Jeffrey that week. He said that Turkey was prepared to take unilateral steps.  

Cavusoglu said a planned operation against the group last year was postponed at the request of US President Donald Trump. 

The Turkish minister said the two countries were unable to reach an agreement that determines who controls the area or how to expel YPG forces from the zone.

Turkey wants a safe zone that has a depth of 30km and is controlled by Turkish armed forces. The United States, according to Turkish officials, would like to have a smaller safe zone controlled by Turkey, the US and other allied forces such as France. 

Both countries have been discussing the matter since last year, when Trump, after declaring a victory against the Islamic State group, decided to withdraw his forces from Syria.