Turkey ends Euphrates Shield military campaign in Syria

30-03-2017
BBC

Turkey says it has "successfully" ended its seven-month Euphrates Shield military campaign in northern Syria.

But Prime Minister Binali Yildirim did not rule out new military operations and did not say whether Turkish troops would now leave Syria.

Turkey launched the offensive last August to push Islamic State militants away from its border and also to stop the advance of local Kurdish fighters.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to visit Turkey.

Raqqa disagreements

"Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name," Mr Yildirim said after Wednesday’s meeting of the country’s security council.

On 24 August, Turkish troops, tanks and planes crossed the border in what Ankara said was the operation to push back IS militants from a 100km (60 miles) stretch of the border.

The army and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have captured several towns, including Jarablus, finally moving south to the strategic town of Al-Bab.

The Turkish operation was also aimed at preventing the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) from gaining more ground in northern Syria, which Ankara fears would fuel an insurgency being waged by the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south-eastern Turkey.

The YPG is regarded by Turkey as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the PKK.

Later on Thursday, Mr Tillerson will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials in Ankara.

His visit comes as bilateral relations have plummeted in the past 18 months, the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Turkey reports.

Disagreements are growing, principally over who should be involved in retaking the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa from IS.

Turkey wants the US to drop its alliance with Kurdish fighters, but Washington says they are the most effective force, our correspondent says.

The Turkish government is also expected to push Mr Tillerson on its extradition request for Fethullah Gulen, the cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Ankara blames for last year’s attempted coup.

The US insists it remains a judicial, rather than political decision.

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