Turkey launched a military operation in northern Syria over the weekend against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in a move that is likely to cause further strain in Istanbul’s relationship with Washington, DC.
The campaign, named “Olive Branch Operation,” is aimed at “protecting Syria’s territorial integrity and eliminating all terrorist elements in the region,” according to remarks on Twitter by President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman.
The operation, which is targeting YPG fighters in the Kurdish-held Syrian region of Afrin, began as an air campaign on Saturday and expanded into a ground offensive on Sunday.
“Turkey expects its allies to support its fight against terrorism in all of its forms,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, added.
Although a member of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO), Turkey has not received much rhetorical support from the US and other leading member countries in the military alliance.
“We encourage all parties to avoid escalation and to focus on the most important task of defeating ISIS,” stated Pentagon spokesperson, Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway on Saturday.
The US also implicitly rebuffed Turkey’s suggestion that the YPG is connected with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US.
“We recognize Turkey’s security concerns regarding the PKK, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization,” Rankine-Galloway continued. “The U.S. does not provide any support to PKK.”
France for its part, has already called for the United Nations Security Council to meet on the matter.
“Ghouta, Idlib, Afrin — France asks for an urgent meeting of the Security Council,” wrote French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Twitter.
Le Drian also said in a statement that France has called on Turkey to “act with restraint.”
Predictably, the Syrian government did not take kindly to the Turkish campaign.
“The Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns the flagrant Turkish aggression on the city of Afrin, which is an integral part of Syrian territory, stressing that this aggression is the most recent in a series of Turkish transgressions against Syrian sovereignty,” a source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.
Russia, a traditionally strong ally of the Syrian government, stressed that it was“concerned” over the operation.