No terror corridor on Syria border will be allowed: Erdoğan
Turkey has reiterated its determination to block terror groups from setting up a corridor along the Turkish-Syrian borders, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, vowing that the fight against terrorist organizations inside and outside the country will continue relentlessly.
“We will never allow a terror corridor to be established along our border in the north of Syria. We will not abandon the future of our Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen brothers and sisters to the mercy of the enthusiasts of new colonialism,” Erdoğan said at an iftar dinner on late May 16.
He repeated Turkey’s intention to stage a cross-border operation into northern Syria where the YPG troops are stationed and to clear these areas from the terrorists just like the Turkish army did in the Afrin and al-Bab provinces of Syria.
“We have cleared an area of over 4.000 square kilometers of terrorists and turned it into an island of peace in northern Syria. The places, used to be associated with oppression, persecution and ethnic cleansing just until recently, have now become the safest cities of Syria as a result of Turkey’s efforts,” he added. He also said that around 320,000 Syrians out of 3.6 million have returned to Syria in regions cleared of terrorists by Turkey.
Army ready for incursion: Akar
In the meantime, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar underlined that the Turkish army was ready but waiting for an order from the government to launch a cross-border operation in northeastern Syria.
“We have made clear to the world that we will do whatever necessary to avoid a terror corridor in the south of Turkey, either in the east or west part of the Euphrates. We have accomplished our preparations to this end,” Akar told veterans at an iftar meeting late May 16. “Preparations have been completed upon instructions by our president. Steps will be taken when an order is issued.”
Akar added that Turkey’s anti-terror actions did not challenge any country’s sovereign rights but their duty was to protect Turkish borders and residents.
Statements by Erdoğan and Akar came as negotiations between Turkey and the United States over setting up a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border are near to a convergence. The United States opposed any unilateral action by Turkey against the YPG presence in Syria as it partners with the group in the fight against ISIL. Turkey sees the YPG as the Syria offshoot of the PKK and therefore as a terrorist group.
Erdoğan slams business leader for criticism on elections
In the meantime, during the same iftar dinner, President Erdoğan slammed the chair of the High Advisory Council of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) Tuncay Özilhan for his criticism of the March 31 elections and Turkey’s transition from a parliamentarian system to the presidential system.
“Yesterday, I listened to Tuncay Özilhan’s speech with sadness, which is cunning with the statistics to defame,” Erdoğan said. Erdoğan accused Özilhan’s remarks of being unacceptable to democracy.
“I want everybody to behave in line with their position until June 23,” he said referring the renewal of local elections in Istanbul.
In his speech on May 15, Özilhan commented on the March 31 elections. “The 31 March elections … were, above all, an important democracy test for our country. The ruling party, opposition and state institutions, especially the YSK [Supreme Elections Council], faced a big challenge in these elections,” Özilhan said.
Emphasizing the importance of the rule of law, Özilhan said: “One of the most fundamental characteristics of a well-functioning democracy is that power can change hands by elections.”
“It seems that the transition from the parliamentary system to a presidential system is yet to be finalized,” Özilhan said. The situation has prevented the country from effectively tackling problems, he added.