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Erdogan threatens to 'clear out' Kurds

October 26, 2019

Turkey's Erdogan has announced he will "clear out" Kurdish forces from the Syrian border if Russia fails to do so. The Turkish leader's comments come as rights groups accuse the country of war crimes.

Turkish President Erdogan gives a press conference
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Cetinmuhurdar

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey would "clear out terrorists" on the border with northern Syria if the Kurdish YPG militia did not withdraw its forces. 

The 150-hour deadline for the Kurds to withdraw was agreed bilaterally between Turkey and Russia in Sochi this week. Erdogan on Saturday said that if Russia failed to remove the Kurdish militia from the border region, Turkey would do so by resuming its offensive. 

"If the terrorists are not cleared at the end of the 150 hours, we will take control and clean it ourselves," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. He referred to the Kurdish YPG militia, a component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a "terrorist" offshoot of Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Turkey plans to clear the Kurdish forces from within 30km (19 miles) of the border as part of its offensive to secure a buffer zone. The deadline will end at 1500 GMT on Tuesday, October 29.

Threats over Syrian refugees

Erdogan once more threatened to send Syrian refugees currently in Turkey towards the EU if European nations refused to support the proposed buffer zone in northern Syria, an area where Ankara plans to settle Syrian refugees.

"If there is no support for the projects we are developing for between one and two million in the first stage for their return, we will have no option but to open our doors, and let them go to Europe," he said.

War crimes?

A former UN investigator said on Saturday that Erdogan should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes.

"For Erdogan to be able to invade Syrian territory to destroy the Kurds is unbelievable," said Swiss former prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who previously led UN investigations into war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

"An investigation should be opened into him and he should be charged with war crimes. He should not be allowed to get away with this scot-free."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday in a press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that Turkey "will not tolerate human rights violations."

Read more: Opinion: Erdogan wins big as clock ticks for Syria Kurds

Amnesty International also reported on Friday that Syrian refugees were already being forcibly sent to the so-called "safe zone" in northern Syria, despite the war going on in the region.

Turkey on Saturday said that the Amnesty report was false and that more than 350,000 Syrian refugees had voluntarily returned to their country this year.

Turkey currently hosts around 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

ed/stb (AFP, Reuters)

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