Ankara is preparing to clear northern Syria's Tel Rifaat, Manbij in operation to establish 30-kilometre security zone south of Turkish border, says Türkiye's President Erdogan.

Turkish President Erdogan says Ankara is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terrorist threat.
Turkish President Erdogan says Ankara is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terrorist threat. (AA)

Türkiye is set to clear two areas of northern Syria, near the Turkish border, of terrorist elements in a bid to eliminate the terror threat from the region, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

“We are entering a new phase of our decision to establish safe zone 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) deep south (of the Turkish-Syrian border). We are clearing Tel Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists,” Erdogan told a group meeting of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.

Erdogan has said as the US and Russia failed to live up to their commitments to provide such a safe zone in the border region, Türkiye is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terrorist threat.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Türkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people. The YPG/PYD is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.

READ MORE: Why is Türkiye signalling for a new anti-PKK operation in Syria?

READ MORE: Türkiye to fight terrorists in northern Syria 'until they are rooted out'

Nordic NATO bids

Turning to Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, Erdogan reiterated Türkiye’s objection to the move, saying both countries have supported and provide safe haven to terrorists, including members of the YPG/PKK and others.

Sweden and Finland have not yet provided Türkiye with any concrete responses meeting its expectations, and NATO is an organisation of security, not a body supporting terrorism, said Erdogan.

How can Türkiye approve of the Swedish and Finnish NATO bids given that the terror affiliates “freely roam, hold rallies there?” he asked, stressing that Ankara expects European countries to act sincerely and address its concerns.

Dismissing the PKK/YPG strategy of adopting different names such as SDF or PYD, the president said some circles are seeking to whitewash the terrorist PKK by tricking people with numerous labels, but they are fooling themselves, not Türkiye.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO on May 18, a decision spurred by Russia's incursion into Ukraine in late February.

But Türkiye, a longstanding member of the alliance, has voiced objections to their membership bids, criticising the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups such as the YPG/PKK and FETO, the group responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Türkiye.

Their accession requires unanimous approval from all 30 NATO member states.

READ MORE: Erdogan: Talks with Sweden, Finland on NATO bids not 'at desired level'

Source: AA