President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday (6 May) said Turkey would launch cross-border offensives, like previous military operations in Syria, in the “new era” after snap polls on 24 June.
“Turkey will launch additional offensives like Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations to clear its border of terror organisations in the new era,” Erdoğan said as he revealed the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) manifesto in Istanbul.
Operation Euphrates Shield took place between August 2016 and March 2017 against the Islamic State group, while the Olive Branch offensive targeted the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in its western enclave of Afrin earlier this year.
The president did not give any details on where the next operation could take place although there has been speculation that Ankara could launch an offensive in northern Iraq.
Turkey says the YPG is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
The PKK has bases in the Qandil mountain area of Iraq.
Erdoğan also repeatedly threatened in the past to expand the Afrin offensive to YPG-held Manbij, which raised fears of a confrontation with United States forces there.
Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 and has since remained the country’s biggest political force.
The Turkish head of state last month announced snap presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June to the surprise of Turkish politics observers.
After these polls, Turkey will implement constitutional changes approved in the April 2017 referendum to create an executive presidency which expands the president’s powers.
“24 June is going to be a milestone for Turkey,” Erdoğan said.
During his 70-minute speech, Erdoğan discussed a range of domestic and foreign issues.
He repeated Turkey’s commitment to joining the European Union despite prior tensions with several EU member states and long-stalled membership negotiations.
Erdoğan highlighted the AKP’s success in starting formal membership talks in 2005, saying it was a country which had been kept waiting.
“We have absolutely not given up our objective of full membership of the European Union even if we have not seen the same determination and desire recently from our interlocutors,” Erdoğan insisted.