ANKARA, July 1. /TASS/. Ankara’s new military operation in northern Syria could begin at any moment, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
"I always say that we can start [the operation] at any moment at night. We should not worry and rush, especially since we are working in the area. I hope we will start the operation when the hour comes," Erdogan told reporters after returning from the NATO summit in Madrid.
Turkish authorities have previously reported that the Turkish Armed Forces are fully prepared for a cross-border operation. According to Erdogan, the main purpose of the planned operation in Syria is to expand the 30-kilometer security zone created in October 2019 after Operation Peace Spring.
Local media reported that 50,000 Turkish soldiers and 5,000 fighters of the so-called Free Syrian Army, controlled by Ankara, are expected to take part in the operation. As it was noted, the operation will allow Turkey to control the 600-kilometer section of the border with the Middle Eastern country and minimize the terrorist threats emanating from the neighboring territory.
In particular, the Hurriyet newspaper noted, areas seized six years ago by the Syrian People's Self-Defense Forces would be liberated and security corridors would be expanded. Thus, the area on the Euphrates’ west bank will be completely cleared of pro-Kurdish forces, which Ankara considers an offshoot of the outlawed in the country Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK.
As a result of Turkey's earlier operations in northern Syria, a security zone was created between the towns of Aazaz and Jerablus north of Aleppo, Afrin was occupied, and the border areas east of the Euphrates River were taken under control.