Turkey is in talks with Russia to use the airspace above northern Syria for a potential cross-border operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday.
Turkey has carried out several incursions into northern Syria against the YPG and has been threatening a new incursion for months. It stepped up preparations last month after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul it blamed on Kurdish militants.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the YPG, have denied involvement in the bombing of the busy pedestrian avenue.
Previous Turkish military activity against Kurdish armed groups
Turkey launched airstrikes against YPG targets in November and President Tayyip Erdogan signaled a possible ground offensive.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Akar said Ankara was in talks with Moscow, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, about the operation.
“We are in talks and discussing with Russia about all issues including opening the airspace.”Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar
"We are in talks and discussing with Russia about all issues including opening the airspace," he said.
Turkey sees the YPG militia, the leading presence in the SDF, as the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Washington's support for the YPG in the fight against Islamic State has infuriated Ankara, causing a major rift between the NATO allies.