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Iran Press TV

Erdogan says Turkey will clear Kurdish militants alone if Sochi deal fails

Iran Press TV

Sat Oct 26, 2019 04:44PM

Turkey has vowed to “clear” Kurdish “terrorists” from the so-called safe zone single-handedly in its border area with northeastern Syria if they do not withdraw by the end of a deadline agreed with Russia this week, days after Ankara launched a cross-border offensive into the Arab country.

Turkish military forces and militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), who enjoy Ankara’s patronage, on October 9 launched a cross-border offensive into northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to clear Kurdish militants from the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) from border areas.

Ankara regards the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

The YPG, which itself is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants.

The military operation came after the US abruptly pulled out its forces of the region, clearing the path for Turkey to go ahead with a planned military action against Washington’s longtime Kurdish allies.

The Syrian government has condemned the offensive as an act of aggression.

Ankara agreed on October 17 to pause the offensive for 120 hours while the US facilitates the withdrawal of the YPG militants from the safe zone, which will be 32 kilometers deep, and 444 kilometers long.

The US-brokered truce expired on Tuesday, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, reached an agreement in Sochi, stating that Kurdish YPG forces must withdraw from the Turkish-ruled “safe zone” in northeast Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow will run joint patrols around the area.

The deadline ends at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Tuesday.

“If the terrorists are not cleared at the end of the 150 hours, we will take control and clean it ourselves," Erdogan threatened during a televised speech in Istanbul on Saturday.

He also said Ankara had achieved "to a large extent" its goal in terms of establishing a “safe zone” to protect against possible attacks from the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and the YPG.

Erdogan also called on the international community to support Turkey's wish to establish the “safe zone” for some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees now reportedly live in Turkey.

The European Union has already condemned the Turkish offensive – called Operation Peace Spring – and branded it as an invasion.

Earlier this month, Erdogan vowed to flood Europe with 3.6 million Syrian refugees if the EU kept condemning Turkey’s operation and failed to support it. The bloc, for its part, threatened to impose sanctions against the Anatolian country, accusing Ankara of blackmailing.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Saturday, the Turkish president renewed his threat against the EU.

“If there is no support for the projects we are developing for between one and two million [refugees] in the first stage for their return, we will have no option but to open our doors, and let them go to Europe,” Erdogan warned, insisting that he was “not blackmailing anyone” but “putting forward a solution.”

Turkish foreign minister reacts to Germany’s safe zone proposal

Separately on Saturday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey rejected a German proposal for an international safe zone.

Berlin has criticized the Moscow-Ankara agreement on the “safe zone,” reasserting the need for an “international response” on the issue and creating an “international security zone” in northern Syria.

Cavusoglu said Berlin’s line was “unrealistic.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, Cavusoglu also noted that Turkey would not tolerate any human rights violations in northeastern Syria and would surely probe any such allegations.

“We will investigate to the very end even the smallest bit of violation (of human rights) and complaint.”

The Turkish foreign minister said “even the least violation of human rights” would be intolerable.

The Turkish military has previously launched two cross-border incursions in northern Syria, namely the Euphrates Shield in August 2016 and the Olive Branch in January 2018, with the declared aim of eradicating Kurdish militants and Daesh Takfiri terrorists near Turkey’s borders.

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