Erdogan warns offensive in northern Syria if Kurds hold local elections

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Photo: Associated Press

Turkey will not hesitate to launch a new offensive in northern Syria if Kurdish-led groups - which Ankara accuses of being linked to outlawed Kurdish militants - go ahead with plans to hold local elections in the region, it has said. on Thursday the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A Kurdish-led autonomous administration that controls northern and eastern parts of Syria has announced plans to hold municipal elections on June 11. Voting to elect mayors is expected to be held in the provinces of Hassakeh, Raqqa, Deir el-Zour and the eastern part of Aleppo province, AP reports.

Turkey, which has launched military operations in Syria in the past, sees the move as a step by the Syrian Kurdish militia towards establishing an independent Kurdish entity across its border. She has described the planned elections as a threat to the territorial integrity of Syria and Turkey.

"We are closely following the terrorist organization's aggressive actions against the territorial integrity of our country and Syria under the pretext of elections," Erdogan said after observing military exercises in western Turkey.

Turkey considers the Kurdish militia group, known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group linked to a Kurdish outlaw group that has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. The conflict with the Workers' Party Kurdistan, or PKK, has left tens of thousands of people dead.

Turkey has carried out a series of military operations in Syria to push the Syrian Kurdish militia away from its border since 2016, and controls a swath of territory in the north. Turkish leaders often talk about plans to create a 30-kilometer-deep safe zone along its border with Syria and Iraq.

"We did what was necessary in the past in the face of a fait accompli. We will not hesitate to act again if we encounter the same situation", said Erdogan.