Turkish Forces Have No Intention of Attacking Syrian Gov't Troops - Minister
As the sixth day of Ankara's Operation Olive Branch in Syria is drawing to a close, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu answered some journalists' questions, revealing the country's stance on official Damascus as well as the current state of the US-Turkey row over Washington's support for the Syrian Kurds.
On Ankara-Damascus Relations
Preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria is the common goal of Ankara and Damascus and the Turkish troops are not going to attack government forces in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
"Once they (the Syrian Armed Forces) shot down our aircraft and we responded. While they do not attack us, we do not need to consider them as our target. Up to this day, we have not taken such actions, Cavusoglu told reporters.
Damascus knows that the YPG militias (People's Protection Units) want to divide Syria. Whereas Turkey and Damascus as well as the opposition forces all support the territorial integrity of Syria within its current borders. We believe that the Syrian regime will not cooperate with terrorists," he added.
In the wake of the start of Ankara's Olive Branch Operation in Afrin, Damascus has strongly condemned the offensive, calling Turkey's move "a violation of the country's sovereignty."
Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Turkey's attack against Afrin is "inseparable from policy, that was pursued by the Turkish regime since the first day of the Syrian crisis and which is based for the most part on supporting terrorism and terrorist groups under different names."
On US Arms Supplies to Kurds
Cavusoglu also said that Trump reassured Erdogan in phone conversation that the US stopped arms supplies to Kurdish units in Syria.
The Turkish minister added that Erdogan urged Trump to withdraw "US troops or the YPG terrorists" from Syrian Manbij, as the YPG are attacking the Turkish military and members of the opposition "Free Syrian Army" in Syrian Idlib.
The disagreement between Ankara and Washington over the Kurdish issue is one of the key incentives for Turkey's ongoing operation in Afrin. On January 14, the US announced its plans to train a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria mostly from YPG fighters, which are considered as terrorists by Ankara.
Washington's move was harshly criticized by Turkey, with President Erdogan threatening to "strangle" the forming "terrorist army." Within a week after the announcement, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria's Kurdish enclave of Afrin code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.
Turkey regards the YPG militias (People's Protection Units), which are fighting Daesh in Syria, as a terrorist group since Ankara suspects them of ties with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed conflict in Turkey seeking autonomy and equal rights for the Kurds in the country.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|