Turkish foreign minister says President Erdogan had announced an operation east of Euphrates to clear out terror groups well before US decision.
Turkey's expected counter-terrorism operation east of the Euphrates River in Syria is not related to US withdrawal from the country, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.
"Our operation against the YPG/PKK is not related to whether the US withdraws or not," Cavusoglu told news channel NTV.
Cavusoglu pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's announcement an imminent operation came well before US President Donald Trump's surprise decision last month to pull out US troops out of Syria.
"We didn’t know that the US would withdraw [from Syria]. However, whether it withdraws or not, we will do what is necessary against a terrorist organisation that poses a threat to our national security," he added.
On December 12, Erdogan announced that a Turkish operation was imminent to save the region from the terrorist PKK/PYD, also known as the PKK/YPG.
Later, the president decided to delay the operation, but Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey is ready to take action very soon to eliminate the "terror corridor" in northern Syria.
"Turkey is determined on this issue," Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey will decide on its timeline for the operation.
"We will not seek permission from anyone on this issue," he added.
Ankara has criticised the US for working with the PKK/PYD to fight Daesh, saying that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.
In Trump's original statement on withdrawing from Syria, he said the US had defeated Daesh completely and could bring troops back home.
However, his statement resulted in resignations and members of his administration publicly acknowledging there was a need to "complete" the Daesh clean-up mission which could require troops to stay longer.
TRT World's Yusuf Erim has more.
US withdrawal 'very clear'
Trump's decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria is "very clear," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.
He was speaking to reporters at the US Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq. His comments come after the US National Security Adviser John Bolton provoked anger in Ankara by saying earlier that the PYD/YPG terror group in Syria must be protected.
Pompeo said the US was talking to the PYD/YPG as well as Ankara on how to withdraw in a "way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans are safe.
"These have been folks that have fought with us and it's important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected," Pompeo said of the Kurdish fighters which are part of the PYD/YPG.
"We will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the caliphate before we depart," said Pompeo, referring to Daesh.
In its 30-year terrorist campaign, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children.
Pompeo said Washington "acknowledges that there is a threat to Turkey from terrorists and we will be very supportive.
Any place we find extremists and terrorists, we’re prepared to support whatever country is ready to go after them," he said. "That includes Turkey and others."