Turkey is determined to clear the last “terror nests” in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said
Addressing the diplomats who attended the 13th Ambassadors Conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Erdoğan said: “Hopefully, we will unite the rings of this security belt soon by clearing the last areas where the terrorist organization is nesting in Syria.”
“We will continue our fight against terrorism. Our decision to establish a 30-kilometer-deep secure line along our southern border remains,” he underlined.
There is no place for terrorism in Turkey, Erdoğan said and added that the country resolutely continues to fight it.
The PKK terrorist group’s Syrian branch YPG controls large parts of northern Syria and is regarded by Washington as an important ally against Daesh despite its NATO ally Turkey’s major security concerns and warnings.
Erdoğan has recently said that Turkey’s plan for a new military operation in northern Syria will be on the table as long as the YPG continues to pose a security threat to his country.
In May, Erdoğan announced plans for a new military operation in Syria to drive away the YPG, an extension of the PKK terrorist group. The plans include resuming Turkish efforts to create a 30-kilometer (20-mile) safe zone along the border with Syria and enabling the voluntary return of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north. Turkish-backed operations in previous years have ousted the YPG and Daesh terrorists from the northwestern enclave of Afrin and a series of border towns further east. Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019).
“A new operation will continue to be on our agenda as long as our national security concerns are not resolved,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan has said that since the United States and Russia have failed to live up to their commitments to provide a safe zone along the border region, Turkey is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG. In October 2019, Russia committed to removing the terrorist group from Tal Rifaat and Manbij after reaching an agreement with Turkey during Operation Peace Spring. Moscow also promised that the terrorists would be pulled back 30 kilometers from the border on the M4 highway and in the area outside the Operation Peace Spring zone.
Erdoğan also reiterated Turkey’s criticism of its NATO ally United States for giving support to the YPG terror group in Syria.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey and the EU, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara.
The U.S. primarily partnered with YPG terrorists in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.’ support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
NATO bids of Sweden, Finland
Erdoğan also touched upon the NATO membership process of the Nordic duo of Sweden and Finland. Turkey maintains its “firm position” on their NATO bids, and will not approve their membership unless promises on terrorism are fulfilled.
“No NATO country should be a safe haven for FETÖ (the Gülenist Terror Group) or PKK terrorists fleeing from the Turkish justice,” he said.
During the NATO summit in Madrid in May, the leaders of three countries agreed on a trilateral memorandum to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.
The deal stipulates that Stockholm and Helsinki will not provide support to the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, nor to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group behind a 2016 defeated coup.
Turkey, a member of NATO for more than 70 years, has pushed Sweden and Finland to meet their obligations.
Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, Turkey has said “there will be no winner,” Erdoğan also stressed, calling for dialogue.
By keeping the door open with both Ukraine and Russia, Turkey has been praised for its leading role in bringing the countries together to move toward peace, including a meeting this March in the Turkish seaside resort of Antalya.