YPG pullout begins as safe zone deal improves: Erdoğan
The YPG, the Syrian wing of the terrorist-designated PKK, has begun pulling out from the border with Turkey following an Ankara-Washington deal late on Oct. 17, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, adding that Turkey will keep watching the implementation of an agreed safe zone in the region.
“I have contacted the Defense Ministry. They have told me that the withdrawal has begun. Our security forces in the area will remain there,” he told reporters after Friday prayers on Oct. 18.
Later in the day, he told reporters that Turkey will restart its operations if a deal struck during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo’s visit to Turkey is not fully implemented.
“If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over,” he said.
Less than a day after reaching a deal for a pause in Turkey’s anti-terror push in northern Syria, reports of a clash between Turkish forces and YPG/PKK terrorists in the safe zone is nothing but disinformation, Turkey’s president also said.
“Our forces will continue to stay there so we will see whether this terrorist group is leaving the area or not,” he added. His meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin set for next Tuesday is crucial for the second phase of the safe zone plan, the president stated.
“We want to take part here,” Erdoğan said, referring to the safe zone mission.
“Russia should lead the security in this region,” he said.
The president also clarified the positioning of the agreed safe zone, saying that it should be 32 kilometers deep into Syria and should extend 444 kilometers starting from Ain al-Arab, or Kobane, in Syria to the country’s border with Iraq.
Turkey and the U.S. came to an agreement on Oct. 17 to pause its “Operation Peace Spring” for 120 hours in order to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone.
A total of four Turkish soldiers and 74 Syrian National Army members were killed during “Operation Peace Spring,” Erdoğan noted. He added that Turkish security forces neutralized nearly 750 YPG/PKK terrorists so far within the scope of the operation.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured. Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring” on Oct. 9 to “eliminate the YPG from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.” Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG/PKK.
“Turkey’s safe zone plans collide with Manbij, Ain al-Arab and Qamishli towns where the Syrian regime has entered,” Erdoğan said, adding that he wants to have an agreement in his discussion with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi next week.
“We aim to reach an agreement that is acceptable for all parties. But we have only one condition, clearing off the YPG presence there,” he stated.
Erdoğan also said that it was not a problem for Turkey if Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were to enter areas cleared of the Syrian Kurdish YPG, adding that Ankara had no intention to stay in areas under its control in northern Syria.
He also said he had informed U.S. President Donald Trump about the offensive in a phone call on Oct. 6, three days before the operation started. Erdogan added that “what is necessary will be done when the time is right” about a letter from Trump which Erdoğan criticized for not being in line with diplomatic courtesy.