Turkish president vows operation in northern Syria will be ‘very soon’
“We wiII move the process which we started with the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations [in northern Syria] forward to a different phase very soon,” Erdoğan said at the 11th Ambassadors’ Conference.
The president has repeatedly warned that Turkey is preparing an offensive into Syria against the YPG, which Turkey sees as a terrorist group and the US has supported as the main fighting force against ISIL.
“Turkey has the right to eliminate all threats against its national security,” he said.
“If needed, Turkey will absolutely protect its national interests [in Syria] either via dialogue, soft power, coercive diplomacy instruments or realpolitik,” he stated.
Turkey won’t feel safe until the elimination of the “structure” that is being fed by its allies’ heavy weapons on its southern border, the president said, referring to the U.S. arms support to the YPG in Syria.
Turkey expects the establishment of a 20-mile (32-kilometer) safe zone in northern Syria and has stressed that it wants the YPG group, and its political wing PYD, cleared of the region. Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which has been at war with the Turkish state for the last 41 years.
The president said Turkey is determined to tear off the PKK from Iraqi territory.
“We expect clear steps from the U.S. over the extradition of FETÖ ringleader to Turkey and the halting of arming of the PKK/YPG terror groups,” the president said, addressing the U.S.
Procurement of S-400 ‘commercial,’ not ‘strategic’
Erdoğan also said that Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense system was a “commercial” rather than a “strategic” move, and criticized the U.S. and the EU for their biased reactions as they did not give the same response to NATO members that previously bought the S-300 system.
The attitude of Turkey’s allies forced the Turkish administration to buy the Russian defense system, he added.
Turkey expects the U.S., its NATO ally and strategic partner, to take steps befitting a true ally, said the president.
“There is no concrete evidence showing the S-400s will harm the F-35s or NATO, nobody should deceive each other. Many NATO member states have purchased from Russia. We don’t see this being turned into a crisis,” he noted.
“Turkey made a business decision for its security and what pushed Turkey to do this was the uncompromising stance of its allies. Trump’s statement at the G20 [meeting] that Turkey was treated unfairly is the confirmation of this fact at the highest level,” he added.
Erdoğan stated that he believes U.S. President Donald Trump will not allow ties between the two NATO allies to become captive to a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 defense system.
Last month, Turkey received the first shipment of the S-400s and said a second shipment would arrive in Ankara next year. The move prompted Washington to begin formally removing Ankara from an F-35 program in which Turkey was both customer and producer.
Turkey seeks to reduce tension in disputed Kashmir
The president also said that Turkey is closely following "worrying" developments in
the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region between Pakistan and India.
Erdoğan said he had a "fruitful" phone conversation with Pakistani premier Imran Khan on Aug. 6 and that Ankara would get in touch with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in hopes to reduce tension mounting in the region.
India on Aug. 5 scrapped the special status granted to the country's only Muslim-majority state, which allowed it autonomy in exchange for joining the Indian union after independence in 1947.
The provision allowed Jammu and Kashmir to enact its own laws and disallowed outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
The Himalayan region is held by India and Pakistan in parts and
claimed by both in full.
Since they were partitioned, the two countries have fought three wars
-- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against
Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region
since 1989, according to several human rights organizations.