The Turkish military's struggle in Syria will continue in a "much more different way" in the upcoming period, said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 15.
Erdoğan made the comments as he touched upon the recent death of two Turkish police officers in northern Syria's Azaz region in a guided missile attack, which Ankara said was undertaken by the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkish officials are saying that they will never accept a U.S. alliance with the YPG, whereas the U.S. sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and also as a key partner in the fight against ISIS.
"As you know, Syria is swarmed by the PKK, YPG, PYD [Democratic Union Party]. And the United States, among coalition powers, is the main party giving them support. With the support and ammunition given, they are terrorizing here [Syria]. We are continuing our struggle against them. The regime is taking its power from them. In the same way, we are continuing our struggle against the regime," Erdoğan told reporters.
"Our patience continued up to a point, and as you know, our two police officers were martyred here [in northern Syria]. We also see civilians being martyred sometimes here. Our struggle against them all will continue in a much more different way in the upcoming period," Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan's comments came after he earlier this week similarly issued a warning on possible "steps" in Syria. "The latest attack on our police and the harassment that targets our soil are the final straw. We will take steps for the solution of these problems as soon as possible," Erdoğan said on Oct. 11, signaling a fresh operation against the YPG.
Turkey preparing for military op against YPG if diplomacy fails: Officials
Meanwhile, two Turkish officials told Reuters that Turkey is preparing for possible further military action against the YPG if talks on the issue with the United States and Russia fail.
"It is essential that the areas, notably the Tel Rifaat region from which attacks are constantly carried out against us, are cleansed," one senior official said on Oct. 15.
The time and nature of any further Turkish military action was unclear. The official said the military and national intelligence agency MİT were making preparations.
"The decision for this has been taken and the necessary coordination will be done with particular countries. This subject will be discussed with Russia and the United States," he added.
The officials said Erdoğan would discuss the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden at a G20 summit of the world's major economies in Rome at the end of October.
Another official said the YPG must be pushed back at least 30 km, noting Russia was completely in control of the areas from which recent attacks had come, along with some Iranian elements.
Erdoğan will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the talks with Biden, he said.
"If there is no outcome from diplomacy and the PYD does not leave these areas, an operation appears unavoidable," he said, referring to Tel Rifaat and "several other locations."
Turkish forces have launched three incursions in the last five years, seizing hundreds of kilometres of border strip and pushing around 30 km into northern Syria.
Russian jets, Iran-backed fighters, Turkish-supported insurgents, jihadists, U.S. troops and Syrian government forces also operate across the patchwork of territories in northern Syria, as well as the Kurdish YPG.
The United States views the YPG as a key ally in the fight against ISIS in northeast Syria. Russia has forces in the area to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.