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Turkey 'Determined' To Cross East Of Euphrates In Syria As Soon As Possible

TURKEY -- Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu delivers a speech during the 10th ambassadors' conference at Sheraton Hotel in Ankara, August 13, 2018

Turkey is determined to cross to the east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria as soon as possible, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on December 25, a day after Ankara sent reinforcements to the border with Syria.

"If Turkey says that it will enter Syria, it will be so," Cavusoglu told reporters. “We plan to enter areas east of the Euphrates River as soon as possible.”

Turkey said earlier this month that it would launch a new military operation in the area. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, prompting Turkey to delay the campaign until the withdrawal is completed.

Trump has said the withdrawal from Syria will be slow and coordinated with Turkey, without providing a timetable.

Turkey said the two countries are coordinating to ensure there is no "authority vacuum" once the U.S. troops leave.

On December 24, Turkish media reported that Ankara sent reinforcements, including troops and trucks carrying tanks and howitzers, to the border with Syria.

Hurriyet daily said, the deployment began over the weekend with around 100 vehicles, which had crossed into the Al-Bab region of northern Syria.

Meanwhile, inside Syria, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters were deployed to areas near the Kurdish-held town of Manbij, the Anadolu news agency said.

Manbij, in northern Syria, is held by a U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia viewed by Ankara as "terrorists" linked to Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.

During the December 25 news briefing, Cavusoglu warned France that it would not gain in any way by retaining forces to protect a Kurdish militia in Syria, after Paris announced it would maintain a presence despite the U.S. withdrawal.

"If France is staying to contribute to Syria's future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the [militia], this will bring no benefit to anyone," Cavusoglu said.

A Kurdish-led force captured much of northern and eastern Syria from the Islamic State (IS) group with the help of a U.S.-led coalition.

The Kurdish militia has expressed shock at Trump’s decision, and now faces a triple threat from Turkey, the Syrian government, and IS.

U.S. partners have warned that a premature American withdrawal will allow IS to storm back.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP
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