Turkey has no intention to occupy any part of Syria: Presidential spokesman
In a live interview over the phone with CNN's Becky Anderson, spokesman İbrahim Kalın said, the safe zone in northern Syria has two main goals.
"The safe zone issue has two main goals. It will secure Turkey's border -- just as Americans care about their border security, we have to take care of our border security. And the second purpose of the safe zone is to provide places for the refugees to return safely and voluntarily," he said.
Reminding Turkey's last two military operations in northern Syria, Kalın said Turkey did not occupy any part of Syrian land.
"Turkey has no interest in occupying any part of Syria. We haven't done so in Jarablus when we fought against Daesh and eliminated 3,000 terrorists there," Kalın said, and continued: "Or when we entered Afrin, we have not occupied any part of Syria, we have returned those places to the local owners and residents, we have no intention of occupying any parts of Syria in the east of the Euphrates either, and also we have no interest in changing the demographics there."
"This is not a move against the Kurds. Turkey doesn't have any problem with the Kurds. We are fighting against terrorist organization that has killed and oppressed the Kurdish people as well," he said.
When asked if the resettling millions of refugees from Turkey back to Syria was not going to cause demographic re-engineering, Kalın answered the PKK/PYD/YPG changed the demography east of the Euphrates.
"They [PKK/PYD/YPG] entered Arab towns like Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and other places and forced people to flee. In fact, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published two reports on this about two years ago. And one report actually said that some of the things that PYD/YPG did in these Arab towns, amount to war crimes, but no one has reported about this," he added.
Kalın said the Kurds will "of course" continue to live where they have lived for centuries.
"We have no interest in altering demographics. It was the PKK/PYD that has changed the demographics there. The refugees in Turkey, which is about 3.5 million from Syria, will go back to the places where they have come from. We are not forcing anybody to go anywhere they don't want to go," he added.
Responding to a question about possible unleash of ISIL, Kalın emphasized Turkey fought with ISIL when they were at the peak of their power.
"We have fought against ISIS in the Jarablus area and eliminated more than 3,000 of them, arrested about 5,000 of them, extradited or expelled many thousands when they were at the peak of their power," he said.
"Now ISIS has lost most of its power. And there are places where they might be present. And we will continue fighting against them, together with the international coalition, with the United States, the European countries and others," the presidential spokesman added.
Kalın also noted that PKK/PYD in Syria has been using the presence of ISIS pockets "here and there as a pretext to justify their military presence, their occupation of Arab towns."
US picking Marxist-Leninist organization as ally 'an irony of history'
When reminded about Republican Senator Lindsey Graham calling for Turkey's suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces, and asked about what will be the response, Kalın said "Turkey is not attacking the Kurds."
Describing Senator Graham's statement as "very disappointing", Kalın said Turkey is "not attacking the Kurds, we are fighting against terrorist networks in Syria, which includes Daesh/ISIS, as well as PYD/YPG so, this is not a fight against the Kurds."
"There are thousands of Kurds in Syria who do not subscribe to PKK/PYD's Marxist-Leninist ideology. And it's really an irony of history that the United States has picked up a Marxist-Leninist organization in Syria as its ally," he said.
To a question whether there was a quid pro quo between the U.S. and Turkish presidents, Kalın said there is none, and the two leaders have been talking about the safe zone.
"Remember, President Trump has wanted to pull out of Syria about eight months ago, but his security and military bureaucracy prevented him from doing this." he replied.
He also underlined that Turkey has done "much more for the Syrian people and the Syrian refugees than any other country in the world" and the country will continue to do so for them.
'Turkey aims to ensure safe return of Syrian refugees'
In another interview with Al Jazeera news network, Kalın said: “We have to take care of our border security and make sure the Syrian refugees go back to their homes that they've come from, securely and voluntarily.”
He also talked about a possible Turkish military operation against the PKK/YPG terrorist organization in northern Syria.
Kalın emphasized that the possible Turkish military action does not aim to transform the demographic structure of the region.
He said some actions of the PKK/YPG/PYD related to displacing people constituted war crimes.
"In fact, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published two separate reports about this. And one of the reports claimed that actually some of the things the PYD/YPG did in some of these Arab towns amount to war crimes.”
“No one has reported about this because it goes against this narrative that the PYD/YPG are fighting against these Daesh barbarians. But in fact, it is a Marxist and Leninist terrorist organization that has oppressed and killed and forced Kurdish people to go to other places.”
Kalın also explained why Turkey wants to establish a safe zone in northern Syria.
“Turkey is determined to clear those areas from any terrorist elements. We will return those places back to the local people. The Syrian
refugees have refused to go back to places under PYD/YPG control because they never felt secure there. But in Jarablus and Al-Bab and other places where we have returned the cities back to the local residents, more than 350,000 Syrian refugees have gone back to their homes,” he said.
Kalın pointed out why Syrians do not feel safe in the region.
“The PYD/YPG has harassed, killed or kidnapped not only Arabs, Kurds and others who do not subscribe to their ideology but also Christian children. The Syrian Syriac community has made a number of statements about this, the PYD/YPG kidnapping their Christian children to enlist them in their ranks.”
Kalın also cited Turkey's efforts to end terrorism in Syria.