At a recent event, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will “crush the heads” of Kurdish fighters if they do not withdraw from a planned safe zone area in northern Syria.
On October 17, Turkey agreed to suspend an offensive for five days to allow the Kurds to retreat from the area.
However, on October 19, both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire.
Turkey views the Kurdish forces as terrorists and wants to create a “safe zone” buffer inside Syria.
Despite the temporary ceasefire, some sporadic violence has continued – particularly around the border town of Ras Al-Ain.
Speaking at an event in the central Turkish province of Kayseri on October 19, President Erdogan said that if Kurdish fighters did not withdraw by October 22 in the evening – as agreed in the ceasefire – “we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists’ heads”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to hold talks next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On October 19, he said that if those talks did not produce a solution, Turkey would “implement its own plans”.
Turkey’s defense ministry earlier accused Kurdish forces of carrying out 14 “provocative” attacks in the last 36 hours, mostly in Ras Al-Ain, but insisted Turkish forces were fully abiding by the agreement.
But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accused Turkey of violating the ceasefire.
They also accuse Turkish troops of failing to create a safe corridor for the evacuation of civilians and wounded people from the besieged town.
On October 19, the SDF urged US VP Mike Pence, who helped to broker the temporary ceasefire, to pressure Turkey to allow the passage of civilians.
The SDF said in a statement: “Despite the constant communication with the American side and the promise made by them to solve this problem, there has not been any tangible progress in this regard.”
Turkish voters are going to polls in a landmark referendum that will determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be granted sweeping new powers.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency.
His supporters say the move would streamline and modernize Turkey, but opponents fear it could lead to greater authoritarianism.
A “yes” vote could also see Recep Tayyip Erdogan remain in office until 2029.
On April 15, Turkish politicians made their final appeals to voters preparing to cast their ballots on one of the most sweeping programs of constitutional change since Turkey became a republic almost a century ago.
Some 55 million people are eligible to vote across 167,000 polling stations, with the results expected to be announced late in the evening.
If the referendum vote falls in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s favor, it would give him vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the changes were needed to address the security challenges faced by Turkey, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.
Image source Wikipedia
Speaking at one of his final rallies in Istanbul’s Tuzla district, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters that the new constitution would “bring stability and trust that is needed for our country to develop and grow”.
“Turkey can leap into the future,” he said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial position, in 2014 after more than a decade as prime minister.
The referendum on constitutional change would abolish the post of prime minister altogether, allowing the president to bring all state bureaucracy under his control.
The president says the new system will resemble those in France and the US and will bring calm in a time of turmoil marked by a Kurdish insurgency, Islamist militancy and conflict in neighboring Syria that has led to a huge refugee influx.
The campaign, which has polarized Turkey, takes place under a state of emergency which was imposed following a failed coup last July. A government crackdown since then has seen tens of thousands of people arrested.
Opponents and critics of the proposed changes fear the move would make the president’s position too powerful, arguing that it would amount to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems.
They say his ability to retain ties to a political party – Recep Tayyip Erdogan could resume leadership of the AK Party (AKP) he co-founded – would end any chance of impartiality.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told a rally in Ankara that a “yes” vote would endanger the country.
“We will put 80 million people on to a bus… we don’t know where it is headed. We are putting 80 million on a bus with no brakes,” he said.
The referendum has a simple “yes” or “no” choice on whether to endorse parliament’s approval of a new draft constitution.
The draft states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on November 3, 2019, and the president would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms.