Turkey is prepared to conduct a new military offensive in northern Syria unless Kurdish rebels are not cleared away from areas along the Turkish border with Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Wednesday while addressing legislators in parliament.

“If all of the terrorists aren’t removed… as it has been promised to us, I repeat once again that we have a legitimate reason to intervene at any moment. We feel the need to,” Erdogan said in reference to the Kurdish fighters.

Erdogan made his remarks just days after two Kurdish fighters infiltrated Turkey from the Syrian border. One of the militants was killed in a shootout with police; the other detonated a suicide bomb following a police chase in the border town of Hatay.

Erdogan made it clear that Turkey was determined to protect its border region. He also added that a recent Russian airstrike that had targeted a military training camp of the Failaq al-Sham, one of the largest Turkish-backed armed militias in the area, was an indication that Moscow was not looking for lasting peace in the region.

The Russian airstrike had taken place in the Jabal al-Dweila near Idlib. At least 35 had died and 50 more were wounded in the strike. The training camp was preparing to graduate a new class of fighters when it was struck. 

The airstrike was considered by many Middle East analysts as a message from Moscow to Ankara. President Putin is upset that the Turks had upped the ante in Nagorno-Karabakh by transporting an influx of Syrian mercenaries to fight against Armenian forces.

Relations between Russia and Turkey are at a very low point despite the recent sale of the S-400 Air Defense System by Moscow to Ankara. Both countries are vying for increased presence and influence in the region mostly by using proxy forces. They are supporting opposite sides in Syria, Libya, and in the recent blowup between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucasus. Russia considers the Caucasus its backyard.  

The Turks have sent thousands of Syrian mercenaries to fight on behalf of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. GNA is fighting against the Russian-backed forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) under General Khalifa Haftar.