Turkish land troops are expected to enter east of the Euphrates River very soon, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding, "I hope no one will try to test Turkey's determination to clear its Syrian borders of terrorists."
Turkish ground troops will enter a planned safe zone in northern Syria "very soon," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, after a joint operation centre with the US opened on the weekend.
"I hope no one will try to test Turkey's determination to clear its Syrian borders of terrorists," Erdogan said, speaking at an event in the eastern city of Mus to mark the 948th anniversary of the Battle of Malazgirt.
Turkey and the United States agreed earlier this month to set up the joint centre for the planned safe zone along Syria's northern border, but gave few details on the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces to operate there.
"We are slowly making progress in our efforts to establish a safe zone," Erdogan said.
"Just like many other issues some saw as untouchable, we are putting the east of the Euphrates issue on track," he said.
Erdogan said progress was being made on plans to establish the safe zone, but added that Turkey had made all preparations to carry out its own plans if its expectations are not met.
"Our priority is dialogue and cooperation. If we are pushed to a road that we don't want or face stalling, our preparations are ready and we will implement our own plans," he said. "Our UAVs and helicopters have entered the region. Very soon, our ground troops will also enter the region."
Turkey has repeatedly said that it would not tolerate any delays to the agreement by US officials, warning that it will mount a cross-border offensive on its own to clear its borders from the YPG/PKK terrorist group if necessary.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria — Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch — to purge the region of terror groups Daesh and the YPG.
The US backed the PYD/YPG-dominated SDF militia in a battle for the Daesh's last territory in Syria.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organisation. In its 30-year terror campaign against the Turkish state, more than 40,000 people, including children, have been killed.
Turkey, the US and the EU recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
The comments come two days after Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the joint US-Turkey centre became fully operational. Akar also said some YPG/PKK positions in the region had been destroyed by US troops as part of the deal.
Speaking on Monday, Akar said that talks were underway for Turkish and US soldiers to begin joint patrols in the planned safe zone area "soon."
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over a host of issues, including conflicting policies in Syria.