politics

Erdogan Wants Allies to Back Away From Kurdish Rebels

Updated on
  • Turkish president criticizes U.S., but doesn’t openly name it
  • Erdogan vows to continue Syrian push until militants defeated

Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul,on Jan. 27.

Photographer: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Turkey’s allies to distance themselves from U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels as his army pushes deeper into Syria to chase away militant groups.

Speaking in Istanbul on Saturday, Erdogan criticized the U.S. over its continued support for Kurdish groups, although he was careful not to identify the NATO ally as the focus of his attack. Earlier, he pledged to continue Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region until all members of Kurdish militia PYD-YPG leave areas near Turkey’s southern borders.

“They are treading a path according to their own wishes by standing with terrorists and warning that nothing should happen to one of their own,” Erdogan said in the televised speech. “If you don’t want to get wet, you shouldn’t be waiting under the rain.”

Erdogan has vowed to extend the military push to nearby Manbij, where U.S. forces are embedded with Kurds. That possibility has spurred criticism from the U.S., which warned earlier this week that any miscalculation could result in a direct confrontation between Turkish and American forces.

Earlier, the Turkish military said its warplanes bombed hundreds of positions held by Kurdish groups since the operation began about a week ago. At least 394 members of “terrorist” groups including Islamic State and PYD-YPG were killed in the cross-border push, while 340 targets were hit by the Turkish Air Force, the military said in a statement on its website

The U.S. pledged not to provide arms to Kurdish militants considered by Turkey to be part of a terrorist organization, Erdogan’s office said, citing a phone conversation between presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, and U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Such promises should be backed with actions so that trust between the two countries can be restored, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said when asked about McMaster’s comments.

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