Turkey will solve Syria issue 'on field, not at table': Erdogan

Reuters Ankara, Turkey Mar 30, 2019, 04.15 PM(IST)

File Photo of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Photograph:( Reuters )

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Turkey has carried out two cross-border operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria and has warned that it will launch further incursions if the threats along its borders are not eliminated.

Turkey will solve the Syria issue "on the field" after Sunday's local elections, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, as he sought to drum up support for his AK Party in the vote.

Turkey has carried out two cross-border operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria and has warned that it will launch further incursions if the threats along its borders are not eliminated.

"First thing after the elections, we will solve the Syria issue on the field if possible, not at the table," Erdogan told supporters in the first of his six rallies in Istanbul.

Less than a year after Tayyip Erdogan celebrated election triumph with fireworks in Ankara, Turkey's all-powerful leader faces the embarrassment of losing his capital in local polls marred by bitter campaign rhetoric and economic storm clouds.

Erdogan has ruled Turkey for 16 years with an ever-tightening grip and his June 2018 national election victory vastly expanded his presidential powers, alarming Western allies who fear Turkey is drifting deeper into authoritarianism.

But the 65-year-old president could be brought down to earth on Sunday when Turks vote in municipal elections which threaten to inflict the first defeat for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in Ankara or the country's biggest city and business hub, Istanbul.

Erdogan has portrayed the vote as an existential choice for Turkey, blasting his domestic opponents as terrorist supporters and even invoking the New Zealand mosque killings as examples of the broader threats he says Turkey faces.