Erdoğan says Syria operation can come at any moment
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 7 that Ankara was ready to launch military operations against the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in the east of the Euphrates in northern Syria “at any moment” following the U.S. announcement that it would not stand in the way.
“We have made a decision. We said ‘one night we could come suddenly.’ We continue our determination,” Erdoğan told reporters before his departure to Serbia.
“It is absolutely out of the question for us to further tolerate the threats from these terrorist groups,” he said, referring to the YPG.
Erdoğan also said the U.S. troops have started withdrawing from positions in northern Syria. “The withdrawal [of the U.S] began after our conversation [with Trump] at night,” Erdoğan said, referring to his phone call with the U.S. President Donald Trump late on Oct. 6.
During the phone call, Erdoğan expressed his frustration with the failure of U.S. military and security officials to implement the agreement between the two countries, the Turkish presidency said.
Soon after this phone conversation, the White House on Oct. 6 said Turkey would “soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation” in northern Syria.
It also said Turkey would be “responsible for all ISIL fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement noting that the United States would not intervene in a Turkish offensive.
U.S. forces “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” said the statement.
Trump on Oct. 7 reiterated his administration’s commitment to withdraw troops from Syria.
“The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” Trump tweeted. Trump said ISIL was “rampant” in northern Syria when he took office, but his administration “quickly defeated 100 percent” of the terror group by capturing thousands of its members, “mostly from Europe.” He slammed Europe for not wanting them back and lashed out in Europe.
“No, we did you a great favor, and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials. They again said ‘No,’ thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the ‘sucker’ on NATO, on Trade, on everything,” Trump said. He reiterated that he is pulling out U.S. troops from conflict zones where there are no national interests.
Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and the Kurds will now have to figure out the situation and what they want to do with the captured ISIL fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’,” Trump said. The U.S. president said the Kurds, in Syria, “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to” fight with the U.S., in an apparent criticism of the policies of former U.S. administrations. “They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost three years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump added.
President Erdoğan said he would work with European governments to deal with foreign ISIL fighters imprisoned in the region.
“There are (ISIL prisoners) from France, Germany, other countries. They say ‘We don’t want to have control over them. We can’t look after them. What can be done about this?” Erdoğan said. Turkey and the U.S. separately work on “what steps can be taken” so that foreign prisoned fighters can be repatriated. Erdoğan noted he planned to visit Washington to meet with Trump in the first half of November.
Meanwhile, Ankara stressed that the military incursion does not target territorial gains in Syria.
Turkey was not after a territorial gain in any country, he said and added: “Turkey is powerful and determined.”
“Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, we have supported the territorial integrity of this country, and we will continue to support it. We are determined to ensure the survival and security of our country by clearing the region from terrorists. We will contribute to peace, peace, and stability in Syria,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on his Twitter account.
“Turkey’s intention is clear: to dismantle the terrorist corridor on our border. To fight against PKK, which is the enemy of Kurdish people. To combat DEASH and prevent its resurgence,” Fahrettin Altun, Communications Director of the Presidency tweeted.
The NATO allies agreed in August to establish a zone in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey. But, Turkey says the United States moved too slowly to set up the zone. It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria.
Syria’s territorial integrity must be preserved, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov told reporters that Moscow was aware that Turkey shared Russia’s position on Syria’s territorial integrity. “We hope that our Turkish colleagues would stick to this position in all situations,” Peskov said. He reiterated Moscow’s stance that all foreign military forces ‘with illegal presence’ should leave Syria.