Erdogan vows to ‘crush’ Kurdish forces if no pullout

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned that Turkey would “crush the heads” of Kurdish forces if they did not withdraw from a proposed safe zone along the border under a US-brokered deal.
If the pullout does not happen by Tuesday evening, “we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists’ heads,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in central Anatolian city of Kayseri.
Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days and to end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from the proposed safe zone away from the border, after talks with US Vice-President Mike Pence in Ankara.
Erdogan also provided some details from his talks with the Americans, adding that Ankara agreed to the 120 hour time deadline after its initial demand of “one night” for the withdrawal.
“If the promises given to our country are not kept, as we did in the past, we will not wait and restart the operation as soon as the time we have given ends,” he said.
The Turkish leader said he also informed US President Donald Trump of Ankara’s position during a phone call late on Friday.
Erdogan is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Tuesday, which overlaps with the end of the 120 hour deadline.
Ankara considers Syrian Kurdish YPG militants to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a group that has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for 35 years.
Meanwhile, several thousand people protested against Turkey’s military incursion into north-eastern Syria in the German city of Cologne on Saturday.
According to police, some 5,000 people started off in two marches toward the city centre, where a big rally was planned for the afternoon.
Police said on Friday they were considering a ban of the protest due to fears of violence, but gave it the go-ahead on Saturday morning.
The marchers were carrying flags of the Kurdish YPG militia and signposts denouncing cooperation with Turkey’s ruling AKP party.
Police said it was on the lookout for signs depicting symbols of the banned Kurdish Worker’s Party PKK.
The organisers expected mostly Kurds to participate, with support also from the hard-left party Die Linke and other groups. Organisers said they expected 15,000 participants, police spoke of 20,000 likely protesters.
Members of the Kurdish diaspora throughout Europe have been called to the protests in Cologne. “We expect that some of the young people will be armed,” said Cologne police chief Uwe Jacob.
Police also anticipate that Turkish nationalists will be demonstrating. The officials are concerned
about the protection of Turkish-aligned establishments. “Even a kebab stand could be endangered,” Jacob said. — AFP/dpa