Turkey to implement own plan in Syria if talks with Putin fail - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday said that a portion of a safe zone Turkey aims to establish in northern Syria was under Russia-backed Syrian government’s control and Ankara would implement its own plan if an upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin failed to produce expected results.

Erdoğan will meet Putin on Tuesday, the day a five-day U.S.-brokered ceasefire will end. Turkey agreed to pause its military offensive in northern Syria for 120 hours in exchange for Washington’s promise fro withdrawal the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from territories along Turkish border where Turkey wants to establish a 32-kilometre deep safe zone.

“This is the second day,” Erdoğan said about the temporary truce during a speech in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri. “It period will end Tuesday night. We know what we said, what we want. If it is done it is alright, if not we will restart from where we left,” he said. 

“There are forces of the (Syrian) regime under Russia’s protection in one part of the operation zone. We will meet with Putin, if not we will implement our plan,” pro-government A Haber quoted Erdoğan as saying. 

Speaking at a mass opening ceremony held in central Kayseri province of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “[If agreement with the U.S.] is not implemented, then we will continue crushing heads of terrorists a minute after 120 hours [operational pause].”    

"If promises given to Turkey are not kept as in the past, we will resume the operation after pause," Erdoğan said.

The U.S.-Turkish deal mainly covers the area between northeastern Syrian towns Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, while Turkey’s plan is to establish a 444-kilometre long safe zone starting from northwestern town of Manbij and ending at the Iraqi border.

Russia brokered a deal between the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria and the Syrian government in Damascus earlier this week to halt the Turkish offensive that was launched on Oct. 9.  The Syrian government forces took over the control of the northwestern town of Manbij from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and entered into neighbouring Kobani.

Erdoğan said on Friday that Ankara wanted YPG to be removed from areas in northeast Syria under the Bashar Assad’s government control. 

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar also reiterated Turkey’s determination to continue the Syrian offensive if the YPG failed to withdraw from the safe zone area. 

“We paused the operation for five days. In this time, the terrorists will withdraw from the safe zone, their weapons will be collected and position destroyed. If this doesn’t happen, we will continue the operation,” Reuters quoted Akar as saying while speaking before Erdoğan in Kayseri.