Turkey defied speculations about possible sanctions in response to its military operation in northern Syria, highlighting the priority of national security.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the media yesterday on Operation Peace Spring.
Erdoğan said that the operation provided an opportunity for Turkey to realize where other countries stand. “There are some countries describing the operation as an invasion. There are some countries threatening our economy with sanctions and weapons embargoes following our operation. They are wrong if they think that they can make Turkey give up,” he said.
Erdoğan also spoke about his recent talk with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said that Merkel was asked sarcastically if Germany had added the terrorist group to NATO and did not inform Turkey about it, referring to Germany’s support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its critical stance against Turkey, which is a NATO ally.
Criticizing some countries’ plans to mediate between Turkey and the terrorist groups, Erdoğan further said that if the Syrian regime could handle terrorist groups, Turkey would not have to intervene.
Speaking to Germany's public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Saturday Turkey is not afraid of any sanctions against it.
"If Turkey was afraid of sanctions, we would not have started this operation [in northern Syria]. This is a vital national security issue for us," he added.
Reiterating that Turkey will respond tit-for-tat to possible U.S. sanctions, Çavuşoğlu stressed that no country has the ability to suppress the Turkish economy.
On Friday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Donald Trump has authorized an executive order that will allow the Treasury, in consultation with the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "very significant new sanctions authority that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey, any portion of the government.”
"The president is concerned about the ongoing military offensive and potential targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, ethnic or religious minorities, and also the president wants to make very clear it is imperative that Turkey not allow even a single ISIS fighter to escape," Mnuchin said, using another acronym for Daesh.
Underlining that Turkey is combating terrorism, Çavuşoğlu said the U.S. should not support terror groups PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
"We do not mediate and negotiate with terrorists. The only thing to do is to let the terrorists take away their weapons," he said.
He also said that some EU countries, especially France, also back the terrorist groups in the region.Turkey to assume responsibility of Daesh detainees in N Syria
Regarding the status of Daesh detainees, Turkey will assume the responsibility of Daesh elements held in detention centers in northern Syria within the scope of Turkey's newly-launched operation east of the Euphrates, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
In a statement, Hami Aksoy, the ministry spokesman, said Turkey will undertake surveillance of Daesh elements in detention centers and their families in camps located in areas to be cleared of YPG and PKK terrorists.
Referring to the Daesh detainees in prisons which are under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group dominated by the YPG, Aksoy said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the issue with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump over the phone.
Turkey will assume responsibility for the detainees if the Turkish military takes control of the area where such detention facilities are located, he added.
"We are ready to cooperate with international organizations and countries for the rehabilitation of the foreign terrorist fighters’ spouses and children who were not involved in crimes," Aksoy said.
A durable solution could be achieved if foreign terrorist fighters and their families in Syria would be taken back to their countries of origin, put on trial and rehabilitated, he added.
President Erdoğan also said yesterday that Turkey would take full responsibility of Daesh detainees in northern Syria.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Wednesday to secure its borders by eliminating terrorists there, to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria's territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to clear the region east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.Ankara slams Arab League chief's statement on anti-terror operation in Syria
Turkey on Saturday also strongly condemned the Arab League's chief for leveling allegations against the country's ongoing operation.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit has become a partner in crime of the terrorists and betrayed the Arab world by accusing Turkey.
In his remarks at the Arab League meeting in Cairo, Aboul-Gheit described the ongoing Turkish operation east of the Euphrates as a "military invasion."
Aksoy said the Arab League criticized Turkey rather than the terrorist organization that tried to target the territorial integrity of Syria.
Turkish Communications Director Fahrettin Altun also condemned the remarks.
"I strongly condemn the Arab League for mischaracterizing Turkey's counterterrorism operation in northeastern Syria as an ‘invasion’ in a statement issued earlier today," Altun said on Twitter.
Arab foreign ministers on Saturday condemned Turkey's anti-terror operation, calling for an immediate withdrawal of Ankara's troops.
The statement came after an emergency session of the Arab League in Cairo called by Egypt.
The meeting comes a few days after Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria's territorial integrity.
Addressing the meeting, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil underlined the importance of returning Syria to the Cairo-based Arab League.
Syria's membership in the league has been suspended since 2011, when the Bashar Assad regime launched a harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests, sparking eight years of civil war.
Saturday's meeting saw speeches by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who called for halting the Turkish operation and reaching a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
In addition, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay condemned the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) president yesterday over his remarks on Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
“I condemn [Mustafa] Akıncı who ignores the fact that Operation Peace Spring is taking place against the bloody terrorist organization PKK/PYD for the stability of the region,” said Fuat Oktay on Twitter.
“Our struggle in the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation which was carried out with the aim of bringing peace and prosperity to the region and the struggle for Operation Peace Spring in Syria today are being carried out with the same spirit,” he added.
Oktay said Akıncı's “unfortunate remarks” do not reflect the opinion of Turkish Cypriots.Trump hopes YPG terrorists will withdraw from Turkey's Syria op area
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said he hoped the YPG terrorists would abandon fighting the Turkish military in northeastern Syria.
"I hope they do because it is very hard to beat a force with planes they don't have, where they have weapons that Kurds don't have," said Trump, referring to the YPG.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring, the third in a series of cross-border anti-terror operations in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the PKK's Syrian offshoot the YPG, on Oct. 9.
In defending his decision to pull U.S. forces from the operation area in northern Syria, Trump said, "I don't think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years."
"We have to bring our great heroes, our great soldiers, we have to bring them home. It's time. It's time," Trump said in a lengthy and wide-ranging address to the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of social conservative activists.
He portrayed the Middle East as a hopeless cause, despite years of American military involvement and financial investment.
"It's less safe now. It's less secure, less stable and they fight," he said adding: "That's what they do. They fight."
The Turkish operation, conducted in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, aims to establish a terror-free safe zone for Syrians return in the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the YPG forces.
Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.
Since 2016, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for nearly 400,000 Syrians who fled the violence to return home.Erdoğan, Johnson discuss Turkey's operation
Turkey's president and the U.K. prime minister discussed Turkey's ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria over the phone late Saturday.
Erdoğan explained the aim of Operation Peace Spring in Syria to Boris Johnson.
Erdoğan said the anti-terror operation will continue until the PKK, YPG and Daesh threats were eliminated in northern Syria and the safe and voluntary return of displaced