Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday gave the most direct indication of a military offensive since Ankara and Washington decided to establish a "safe zone" in the region.

Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and US Armed Forces began second joint land patrol in Syria, in the east of the Euphrates within the scope of the first phase of safe zone applications.
Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and US Armed Forces began second joint land patrol in Syria, in the east of the Euphrates within the scope of the first phase of safe zone applications. (AA)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey will carry out air and ground military operations east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

This is the most direct indication of a military offensive since Ankara and Washington decided to establish a "safe zone".

The operation could start as soon as Saturday or Sunday, he added.

The NATO allies have agreed to establish a zone on the Syrian border that Turkey says should stretch 30 km into Syria and be cleared of the YPG, the Syrian offshoot of terror group PKK.

Turkey has accused the US of moving too slowly to set up the zone. The two countries are also at odds over how far it should extend into Syria and who should control it.

Speaking at the opening of his AK Party's annual camp, Erdogan said Turkey aimed to "water the east of Euphrates with fountains of peace" and settle refugees there.

"We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience," Erdogan said.

"We've made our preparations, we've completed our operation plans, given the necessary instructions," he said, adding that Turkey would carry out air and ground actions and these could start "as soon as today or tomorrow".

Turkey says it wants to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone, and has repeatedly warned of unilateral military action if it is not satisfied with progress.

Free Syrian Army forces pledged on Friday to back a potential cross-border offensive that Ankara has threatened to mount against YPG in northeast Syria.

The US, which considers the PKK a terrorist organisation, changed the YPG's name to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in July 2017 in order to dissociate it with the PKK.

In response to Erdogan's statements, the US-backed SDF says it will defend itself against "any unprovoked attack by Turkey."

The PKK has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including women and children in a campaign which has lasted for over 30 years.

Since July 2012, when the PKK/YPG took control of some Syrian provinces, a team from Syrian Network for Human Rights recorded the detention of almost 2,907 civilians, including 631 children and 172 women.

Source: Reuters