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Turkey’s Erdogan delays operation against Kurdish forces in Syria
By Erin Cunningham
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint news conference with the Iranian President at the Turkish presidential complex in Ankara on Dec. 20, 2018. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)
Middle East reporter covering Iran, Turkey, Syria and the wider region
December 21 at 8:47 AM
ISTANBUL — Turkey will delay a planned offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria's northeast, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, citing talks with the U.S. president and other officials.
Erdogan said that he welcomed President Trump's decision — announced Wednesday — to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, where they are partnered with Kurdish-led fighters to battle the Islamic State.
Turkey sees Kurdish forces both at home and in Syria as a threat to its national security and warned of an impending offensive to rout them from the Turkish border.
“We decided last week to launch a military incursion into the east of the Euphrates River and shared that information with the public,” Erdogan said at a meeting of the Turkish Exporters Assembly in Istanbul.
“Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer,” he said, referring to a phone call between the two leaders last Friday.
Still, he said, Turkey's military is planning to launch the offensive in several months, with the aim of “eliminating” both the Kurdish YPG, or People's Protection Units, and Islamic State remnants.