300,000 Syrians back owing to Turkish ops
Nearly 300,000 Syrians have returned to their country after Turkish military operations in the region, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said, as Turkey plans a new operation into Syria and has been sending reinforcements to its southeastern border.
“The number of Syrians who returned to their country after operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch is 291,790,” Soylu said at the International Coordination Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Thrace province of Edirne.
Turkey conducted two cross-border operations in Syria since 2016 to eliminate the presence of the YPG, which it sees as the Syrian branch of the PKK, and ISIL across Turkey’s border.
Speaking about Turkey’s geographical location as the main route for what he called illegal crossings of refugees who want to go to Europe, the minister said that in 2018 so far 251,794 undocumented migrants were apprehended during their attempts to cross borders via illegal routes.
He added that the Turkish Coast Guard and security forces were continuing to work efficiently to prevent the “illegal crossings.”
Turkey has seen millions of refugees cross to Europe via its lands, especially since the beginning of the civil war in Syria.
Reinforcement to Syrian border
Turkey has been sending reinforcements to its border with Syria for what it calls the third operation after its “previous successful operations into Syria,” Demirören News Agency reported Dec. 22.
But last week President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would postpone a planned military operation on the YPG following the United States’ decision to withdraw from Syria.
Demirören News Agency reported that the Turkish convoy, consisting of 100 vehicles, headed toward the border province of Kilis and included tanks, howitzers, machine guns and buses carrying commandos.
Part of the military equipment and personnel are to be positioned in posts along the border, while some had crossed into Syria via the district of Elbeyli, DHA said.
Elbeyli is located 45 kilometers from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, which has been a major flashpoint between Ankara and Washington. In June, the NATO allies reached an agreement that would see the YPG ousted from the area but Turkey has complained the road map has been delayed.
Erdoğan said on Dec. 21 that Turkey will take over the fight against ISIL militants in Syria as the United States withdraws its troops, adding that the planned operation would target the YPG, as well as ISIL.
“We had decided last week to launch a military incursion in the east of the Euphrates River. Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, has led us to wait a little longer,” he said in a speech in Istanbul on Dec. 21. But Erdoğan said this was not an “open-ended waiting period.”