(TURKISH JOURNAL) – By Janet Ekstract – On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to reporters after his speech to parliament in Ankara. He said, “We may suddenly arrive one night,” referring to a possible cross-border defensive in northeastern Syria.
Erdogan expressed his exasperation, explaining to the press that every possible avenue had been explored to resolve this issue with Turkey’s allies.
Turkey is host to the world’s largest refugee population of more than 3.6 million Syrians who fled their nation’s civil war that has continued for the last eight years.
The Turkish goal is to be able to accommodate 2 million Syrian refugees within a buffer zone as long as 19 miles – that would begin in the Syrian town of Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates River to the Iraq border in the east. Houses will be built for the refugees with donations from the international community once YPG forces are cleared out.
President Erdogan is deeply concerned about security on Turkish borders since Turkish civilians have been the casualties of Syrian cross-border missiles.
Turkey sees Kurdish militia group YPG as a terrorist organization and threat the U.S. backs Kurdish self-rule in Syria.
Meanwhile, another major concern is that refugees will begin fleeing from. Idlib, a northwestern province in Syria, besieged by fighting and witnessing a bombing campaign that has lasted over three months and killed scores of civilians.
Turkey has vowed to take additional steps to protect its national security and create a buffer zone inside Syria by pushing back YPG to allow Syrian refugees to return.
Erdogan warned, “Turkey doesn’t have a single day left to lose on this issue.”
The U.S. has yet to respond to Turkey’s latest decision to go it alone if issues can’t be resolved.
In the meantime, the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey is ready for “an operation.” Akar said, “This is not a joke but we want this to be resolved in line with the spirit of the alliance” with the U.S.
Akar is also calling on the U.S. to collect heavy weapons it supplied to the Kurdish forces, making certain that fortified positions of YPG are completely destroyed. Akar warned that Turkey could face greater risks if the U.S. does not open the airspace over northeastern Syria which is necessary to support Turkish troops from the air.
U.S. top Syrian envoy, James Jeffrey said last week that “any unilateral operation is not going to lead to an improvement in anyone’s security.” His reasoning is that it could disrupt the combat of Kurdish forces against Islamic State, that is a main priority for the U.S. in Syria.
Kurdish militia would need to be pushed further south in order for Turkey to achieve its goal of creating an expanded safe zone.
If Erdogan is able to successfully create the expanded buffer zone and resettle at least 2 million refugees -it would lift some of the economic burden off Turkey and ease societal tensions that have steadily grown since the influx of Syrian refugees.
The Turkish president reiterated that Turkey will attempt to keep resolving this issue but if that doesn’t happen then Erdogan said Turkey is ready to forge ahead on its own.