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Turkey says ready for Syria operation ahead of Trump talks

By AFP - Sep 21,2019 - Last updated at Sep 21,2019

A man waves the flag of the Syrian opposition during a demonstration against the Syrian regime and its ally Russia and calling for protection from the Turkish government in north-western Idlib province, on Friday (AFP photo)

ANKARA — Turkey's preparations on the border with Syria ahead of a possible operation have been completed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday ahead of talks with US counterpart Donald Trump.

After a US-Turkey deal agreed last month to create a buffer zone in north-eastern Syria, Erdogan warned Washington that Ankara expected to see results otherwise the Turkish military would target a US-backed Kurdish militia.

"Our preparations along the border have been completed," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul ahead of his flight to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

He has given the US until the end of the month for concrete results on the development of a "safe zone" on Turkey's border, after which Turkey will go in.

Trump and Erdogan will discuss the matter when the Turkish leader is in New York.

Although earlier this month, the NATO allies launched joint patrols in northeastern Syria, Turkish officials have described the US actions as "cosmetic" and warned against delays.

There were also air patrols by Turkish and American military helicopters, state news agency Anadolu reported on Saturday.

The zone is intended to move the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia away from the Turkish border.

Erdogan has also said up to three million Syrian refugees could be returned to the zone from Europe and Turkey, where more than 3.6 million fled to.

The continued support of the US for the YPG has strained relations with Turkey, which Erdogan again criticised during the press conference.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

"We have no desire to get into a confrontation with the US," said Erdogan.

"But we do not have the luxury to ignore the support that the United States is giving to terror organisations.”

Turkey launched operations in northern Syria against the Daesh extremist group in 2016 and against the YPG in early 2018.

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