Turkey is expected to attack Syria within the next 24 hours, according to a report citing U.S. and Kurdish officials.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director confirmed that the country’s military, together
with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Syrian border ‘shortly’.
Donald Trump previously warned that he would ‘obliterate’ the Turkish economy if the country invaded north-east Syria, which is largely held by American-backed Kurdish forces.
However, Washington appears to have subsequently softened its rhetoric, with a U.S Defense Department spokesman yesterday saying American troops were being withdrawn as a result of the anticipated Turkish strike.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said establishment of a safe zone is essential to contribute to stability and peace of the region and for Syrians.
The U.S. President threatened to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far.
The threat comes even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.
Britain has raised concerns over the situation with both the Foreign and Defence Secretaries speaking to their US counterparts.
Foreign Office minister Dr Andrew Murrison said troop movements were a matter for the US.
UK minister Dr Murrison said military action “must be avoided as it would destabilise the region” and harm efforts to achieve the “enduring defeat of Daesh”.
Speaking in Parliament, former minister Tobias Ellwood warned the situation was a “fundamental change in US foreign policy.”
He added: “These are not soldiers in uniform but radicalised extremists who are committed to pursuing their jihadist agenda.”
The withdrawal of American troops will leave Kurdish-led forces in Syria vulnerable to Turkish operations.
Ankara has long viewed the Kurdish forces as terrorists.
All preparations for a possible military operation into northeastern Syria are completed, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a Twitter post late on Monday.
Trump’s stern words seemed to be aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces.
Leaders from both parties and both houses of Congress joined in the criticism, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump’s fellow Republican.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” Trump tweeted.
Turkey’s lira slid more than two per cent to its lowest level in more than a month against the dollar on Monday over concerns about the planned incursion into northern Syria and Trump’s warning.
Investors have been closely watching tense ties between Ankara and Washington in recent months, with the countries at odds over a range of issues, including Syria and Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defence systems.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to carry out an incursion against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria who have links to Kurdish guerrillas operating next door in Turkey.
The United States began pulling troops back from the northeast Syrian border on Monday, effectively giving Turkey a green light to move into the area.
Earlier on Monday, Trump said the United States should leave others from European allies to Iranian foes, “to figure the situation out” in the region.
He wrote on Twitter that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.
“WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.
“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.”