Turkey to continue safe zone efforts in N Syria: Erdoğan

Turkey to continue safe zone efforts in N Syria: Erdoğan

Turkey to continue safe zone efforts in N Syria: Erdoğan

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 23 that Ankara would resume its efforts to establish a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) depth safe zone along its border with Syria.

“We are starting to take new steps soon regarding the remaining parts of the works that we launched to create 30 kilometers of deep safe zones along our southern borders,” Erdoğan said following the cabinet meeting.

The president also said the military operation in Syria would target the areas where the YPG group launched “attacks” on Turkey’s territory and its safe zone areas in Syria.

“Areas which are the main targets of frequent attacks, harassments and traps constitute our operations’ priorities,” he stated.

The operation would begin after Turkey’s military, intelligence and security forces complete their preparations, Erdoğan said, noting that the National Security Council will discuss the issue on May 26.

The Turkish Army launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019, and Operation Spring Shield in 2020 in northern Syria to secure Turkey’s borders and aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees.

Turkey and Russia agreed in 2019 to clear the area 30 kilometers south of Turkey’s border with Syria of the YPG group. However, Ankara says the YPG launches attacks against Turkish territory and its military zones in the region.

Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU.

Erdoğan says he will no longer talk to Greek PM

Meanwhile, Erdoğan said he would cease talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and cancel a key meeting between their two governments, saying the Greek leader antagonizes Turkey.

Erdoğan accused Mitsotakis of recommending to U.S. officials that Washington not sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey during a recent visit to the United States.

“We were going to hold the Strategic Cooperation Council Meeting this year, but Mitsotakis no longer exists for me. I don’t accept any such meeting with him anymore because we walk on the same path with honorable politicians who have character and who keep their promises,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan was referring to a speech Mitsotakis delivered in Washington on May 17, when he told Congress that the U.S. should avoid creating a new source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank.

Turkey says Greece is violating international agreements by militarizing islands in the Aegean Sea. Athens says it needs to defend the islands - many of which lie close to Turkey’s coast - against a potential attack using Turkey’s large fleet of military landing craft.

Officials from both countries resumed exploratory talks in 2021 after a five-year pause to lay the groundwork for formal negotiations to begin but haven’t made much progress.

Greece this month formally extended its bilateral military agreement with the United States for five years, replacing an annual review of the deal that grants the U.S. military access to three bases in mainland Greece as well as the American naval presence on the island of Crete.

“Who is Greece threatening with these bases? Why is Greece establishing these bases?” Erdoğan asked.

He also reiterated that Turkey made a mistake by reaccepting Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. The Turkish leader has also recently lashed out at Sweden and Finland’s requests to join NATO, saying Turkey would not support that.