Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech Monday marking his victory in a landmark election that granted him sweeping new executive powers, pledged to continue Ankara’s military offensive to remove the U.S.-allied Kurds from power in northern Syria.
Speaking from the headquarters of his Justice and Development (AK) Party that secured a majority during the elections by joining forces with a nationalist bloc in Ankara, Erdogan vowed that his government would “act more decisively” against terrorist organizations, adding Turkey would continue to “liberate Syrian lands” so Syrian people can return to their home country.
Ankara considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls swathes of northern Syria, to be affiliates of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), known to carry out various attacks on Turkish soil.
U.S. support for the YPG has infuriated America’s NATO ally Ankara. Nevertheless, the U.S. maintains that the Syrian Kurds are essential partners against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently accused Turkey of forcing a demographic change in northern Syria, allowing Arab fighters to occupy Kurdish property.
The snap elections on Sunday, scheduled by the new Turkish leader on April 1, also saw Erdogan’s AK party secure a majority in parliament by aligning itself with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a move that further consolidated the new president’s control of Turkey.
Al Jazeera acknowledges that Erdogan’s victory is ushering in a new executive presidential system, further explaining:
Under the new system, re-elected Erdogan will be able to appoint vice presidents, ministers, high-level officials, and senior judges, as well as dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees and impose a state of emergency … The opposition, Turkey’s Western allies and other critics, however, say that the system grants the presidency major new powers while omitting the necessary checks and balances.
During his victory speech, Erdogan declared that Turkey would continue to fight to defeat the Kurdish YPG. Both Ankara and Washington have outlawed the terrorist PKK, considered by Turkey to be a YPG ally.
While Erdogan declared on Sunday that “winners of June 24 elections are Turkey, [the] Turkish nation, sufferers of our region, and all oppressed in the world,” opposition leaders and international observers decried widespread arrests, ballot fraud, and censorship.