Turkey's AKP government will launch a new military operation in northern Syria within days, targeting the US-backed Kurdish YPG militant group, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.
"We will start the operation to clear the east of the Euphrates from separatist terrorists in a few days. Our target is never U.S. soldiers," Erdoğan said at a speech at a defence industry summit in Ankara.
In recent months, Ankara has shelled some positions across the border in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, and has threatened to drive out the Syrian Kurdish militants known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG.
Underlining that Ankara has nurtured enmity towards neither Washington nor the American soldiers in Syria, Erdoğan called on the US not to allow "deep" disagreements over Syria policy to impede future cooperation between the two countries.
"This step will allow for the path to a political solution to be opened and for healthier cooperation."
His statement follows US moves to set up observation posts in northern Syria, despite Ankara's objections.
Erdoğan administration has been incensed by American support for the Kurdish-led forces. More recently, it has been frustrated by delays in the implementation of an agreement that was reached between Washington and Ankara that would effectively push the Kurdish militant out of the key northern Syrian town of Manbij, west of the Euphrates.
"They are not being honest, they are still not removing terrorists (from Manbij)," Erdoğan said. "Therefore, we will do it."
"Are we not together in NATO? If you are planning to do something against the Islamic State, let’s do it together. We haven’t still achieved a good result in Manbij," he added.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Ankara sent a convoy of troops and military equipment to the border with Syria as reinforcements, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The military operation in the east of the Euphrates, which has been suggested by the Turkish authorities for months, would be the third comprehensive cross-border intervention of the Erdoğan administration into Syrian territories after the Operation Euphrates Shield and the Operation Olive Branch.
Erdoğan's announcement came after Turkish officials held talks in Ankara this week with the U.S. special representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey. A Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) military source said Jeffrey met the SDF leadership in northern Syria on Wednesday.
"UNILATERAL MILITARY ACTION INTO NORTHEAST SYRIA IS UNACCEPTABLE"
Commenting on the Erdogan remarks, a Pentagon spokesman said U.S.-Turkish coordination and consultation is the "only approach" to security issues in this area.
"Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern," Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson said. "We would find any such actions unacceptable."
Robertson said uncoordinated military operations will undermine the shared U.S.-Turkish interests in security in Syria.