Turkey to take necessary steps in Syria after meeting with Putin: Erdoğan
“As you know, there is a pause of 120 hours. A major part of [the period] has ended. Tomorrow [on Oct. 22] we have a visit to Russia, Sochi,” Erdoğan said during a speech at the TRT World Forum in the Istanbul metropolis.
“In this trip, Mr. Putin and I will tackle the period and will hopefully take the necessary steps,” he added.
The 120 hours refer to the timespan during which Turkey and the United State agreed on Oct. 17 to pause “Operation Peace Spring” to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone.
Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey will not make a deal with terrorist organizations, accusing Western states of “siding with terrorists.”
“We have not and will never sit at the same table with terrorists. Others may do it; it’s not our business, but it is significant to see where international politics, law of war and the fight against terrorism have come,” he said.
“On one hand, you will voice the fight against terrorism, but on the other hand, you spoil them,” he added.
Erdoğan also said that sending 30,000 trucks of arms and weapons via Iran to terrorist organizations in northern Syria is “inexplicable.”
“How will those saying ‘I am the world’s strongest’ explain this? With what democratic understanding will they will explain this?” he said.
“The West sided with terrorists, and all of them attacked us. These include NATO countries as well as European Union counties. Weren’t you against terrorism? Since when have you been acting with them?” Erdoğan added, addressing the Western circles.
Countries which are “truly against terrorists” should provide proof, Erdoğan said. “Leave your filters aside; be clear, transparent and voluntary.”
“Those thinking that the terror and refugee problems will remain limited within Turkey, instead of empathizing with us, are mistaken,” he said.
Erdoğan suggested that international organizations such as the United Nations should be “restructured.”
“The world is not the same as it was after the First World War. Then, a reform needs to be implemented,” he said.
Turkey is pulling out all the stops to fulfill its responsibility across the world, according to Erdoğan.
“Some countries have a free hand in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa for other intentions, but we are there for its brothers and sisters,” he said, stressing that Turkey has no interest in other countries’ territories.
'Our goal is to prevent terror corridor in N.Syria'
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who also attended the forum, said that Turkey’s goals are to protect its borders, prevent a terror corridor in northern Syria and ensure safe return of displaced Syrians.
"As long as the YPG/PKK is active in Syria, neither that country nor the region can reach permanent peace, security and stability," he said.
"Our goals are to protect our borders, prevent a terror corridor in northern Syria, put an end to the presence of YPG/PKK, Daesh and all other terrorists in the north of Syria, and to establish a safe zone so as to enable two million displaced Syrians, including Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Ezidis, and Chaldeans, to voluntarily and peacefully return to their lands and homes," he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Akar blasted Turkey’s allies for supporting YPG/PKK during Turkey’s anti-terror push.
"In the meantime, regrettably and deplorably, YPG/PKK received substantial material support from our allies. Each weapon handed over to YPG/PKK ended up in the hands of the PKK ready to be turned on Turkey - a fellow NATO member," he said.
"With all those support YPG/PKK got from our allies, they increased atrocities against the local population of the region, including forced migration, confiscation of land and conscription of people, even children, against their will," he added.
"Those actions led to a change in the demography of the region and mass migration to Turkey. Of the 4 million refugees in Turkey, about half a million are Kurds who have fled the atrocities of YPG/PKK," he said.
Referring to Turkey’s recent deal with the U.S. on northern Syria, the defense minister said: "Implementation of the agreement is critical and we are watching closely to make sure all of the conditions are met. If the withdrawal is completed on time, the operation will be halted".
Syria op to restart if terror group does not withdraw in 35 hours: Turkish FM
In the meantime, Turkish foreign minister on Oct. 21 said that "Operation Peace Spring" will restart if the YPG/PKK terror group does not withdraw within 35 hours.
Speaking at the TRT World Forum on Oct. 21, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: "We have 35 hours left. If they don't withdraw, our operation will resume. This is also what we agreed with the Americans,"
"If all the YPG/PKK elements withdraw from this region, we can halt the operation," he added.
Turkey is against terrorist organizations, not Kurds, Çavuşoğlu said. He added that Turkey hosts 350,000 Syrian Kurds who fled violence by the YPG/PKK.
Çavuşoğlu also added that while Turkey was working with U.S. for the establishment of the safe zone, the latter continued to provide arms to the YPG/PYD.
The minister also stressed Turkey's support of the political process in Syria, saying there is no military solution.
Turkey has been facing false accusations and smear campaigns since the start of "Operation Peace Spring," he said.
'Turkey never used chemical weapons in its history'
Regarding the allegations on Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) using chemical weapons in its operation, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey has never used such weapons in its history.
The TSK on Oct. 21 also denied allegations on the use of chemical weapons in its anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
The defense minister had stressed that Turkey does not have any bit of chemical weapons, so there is also no means of disposal or ammunition.
The foreign press makes baseless allegations to cast shadow on the success of the operation, said Akar.
Akar noted that those foreign media organizations and internet websites come up with those fake news with unreal photos and claim that Turkish army used white phosphorus bombs.
Dr. Levent Kenar, professor and chair of Department of Medical Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense at University of Health Sciences in Turkey's capital Ankara, evaluated claims on TSK's use of chemical weapons.
"Chemical weapons are also weapons of mass destruction," said Kenar.
"It is not possible to affect only one person, the body of the child appearing on the photo is affected but there seems to be no effect on the face," he stressed.
"It is unclear where and when the wounded child's photo was taken, but it looks like the wounds are from an old burn," Kenar added.
Kenar emphasized that Turkey is party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC)," which is why their use by Turkey is out of question.
"There is no diagnosis of the use of chemical weapons on a body with burn marks," he said.
"For evidence of such a claim, blood tests and environmental samples must be taken and examined at laboratories as those would be scientific facts," Kenar said.
Uygar Halis Tazebay, a specialist of molecular biology, genetics and CBRN at Gebze Technical University in Turkey's northwest Kocaeli province, said chemical weapons production in Turkey is out of question and only defense systems for the purpose of identifying the use of chemical weapons are being developed.
"So if a region, soil or field is subject to a chemical, we can identify if it is affected or not, or if a person is affected by it, so only these systems are being developed," Tazebay said.
"Photography is one of the most easily manipulated elements in the world," he added.
"The claim of chemical weapons cannot be brought up by a photo, rather a laboratory analysis is required," he stressed.