Turkey can act on its own in northern Syria if US plan fails: Defense Minister
Turkey may act on its own in northern Syria to create a safe zone if a deal with the United States does not work as wanted, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, speaking of “plan B and plan C” to clear territories in the east of the Euphrates River.
“We assess that some new steps will be taken regarding this in the upcoming days. Here, the control and coordination of the aerospace is very important. A great deal of progress has been made for this,” Akar said during an interview with state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT).
He was referring to the depth of a to-be established safe zone, which was also discussed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his American counterpart Donald Trump in a telephone call.
“We are saying this with our desire to act jointly with our American allies within the context of alliance and strategic partnership spirit, after the establishment of a Joint Operations Center,” he added.
If the U.S. fails to cooperate on this issue, Turkey has other plans as well, Akar stressed.
“Call it either a plan B or plan C, we will have activities of our own, if other plans fail,” he said.
The defense chief also underlined that Ankara has determined a time span for activities because Turkey “no longer has tolerance” with such delays and everything needs to happen according to a pre-determined program.
“We have set some time periods. Because we have seen that some delays occur and some things have been lengthened out, based on our previous experiences,” he said.
Akar also conveyed that authorities have picked time points to control the objectives of the plan, adding that cooperation will continue if the U.S. continues to abide by the Turkish time span.
Turkey will carry out its own plan if a problem occurs, the minister underlined.
Other activities will follow the establishment of the Joint Operations Center, according to the minister. “We have overtly exhibited that we will not allow a terror corridor in southern Turkey. We conveyed our determination to take all the necessary precautions.”
Meanwhile, the first U.S. soldiers tasked to perform their duties at the Joint Operations Center arrived in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on Aug. 12.
According to a written statement by Turkey’s Defense Ministry, a U.S. delegation of six have arrived in Şanlıurfa for preliminary preparations of the establishment of the Joint Operations Center.
“The center is planned to be activated in the following days,” the ministry’s statement read.
‘Cyprus is a national cause’
Regarding the ongoing disputes about the drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean and the Cyprus issue, Akar said that Cyprus is a “national cause” for Turkey because the latter “shares a common fate” with Turkish Cypriots.
“Cyprus is a national cause for us. We know that we share a common fate with our Turkish Cypriot brothers,” he said.
Ankara has important rights and duties since it is a guarantor state on the issue, Akar said.
“We will continue to perform our rights and duties in a delaying and problem-free manner, no one should doubt this. We have done our part and we will continue to do it,” he added.
“We have been on the side of our Turkish Cypriot brothers and we will continue to be on their sides,” he stressed.
Regarding rising tensions in the east Mediterranean on energy, the minister said no solution can be reached without the presence of Turkey or Turkish Cyprus.
“We have been saying that no initiatives that aim to usurp our rights and laws will be successful. We want everyone to know that the state of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] are ready to take any steps necessary concerning this,” he added.
The defense chief also stressed that Turkey is for peaceful discussions like the ones that took place in the capital Ankara and the Greek capital of Athens.
“Thus, we are slanted towards reciprocal dialogues and meetings on all matters in the Aegean, eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus,” he said.