Erdogan’s comments come at a time when Russia is calling for restraint, despite understanding Turkey’s “security concerns”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to say Ankara plans to deploy ground forces to attack Kurdish forces across the border in Syria.

Turkey blames the groups for November 13 bombing in the center of Istanbulin which six people died.

“We suppressed terrorists for a few days with our planes, guns and rifles,” Erdogan said in a speech on Tuesday. “God willing, we will exterminate them all as soon as possible, along with our tanks, our soldiers.”

Erdogan has made similar threats over the past six months, but cross-border air strikes on Sunday have increased the likelihood of a larger military operation.

Russia has warned of any possible operation.

The Kremlin has said Russia respects Turkey’s “legitimate” security concerns over Syria, but claimed all parties there should avoid any moves that could worsen the situation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that while there were differences between Russia and Turkey in their approach to Syria, Moscow understood Turkey’s security concerns.

“We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns about ensuring its own security. We believe that this is the legitimate right of Turkey. At the same time, we call on all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to destabilization of the overall situation,” he said.

Ankara blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated Syrian Kurdish groups for the attack in Istanbul, which also injured more than 80 people.

Kurdish fighters have denied any involvement.

Turkey’s defense ministry said the so-called Claw Sword operation — which also involved land-based weapons — killed 184 fighters and destroyed 89 targets, including shelters, bunkers, caves and tunnels.

Washington, like Moscow, called for de-escalation.

Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara supports rebels fighting to overthrow him.

The Kremlin’s soft call for restraint came as Ankara positioned itself as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev in the war in Ukraine, which began on February 24 with the invasion of Russia.

Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have had a warm relationship throughout the conflict, with regular phone calls and meetings.

Turkey also has good relations with Ukraine, as a supplier of drones and other weapons.

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By wy9m6

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