Cross-border operation in Syria not an overnight matter, PM Yıldırım says

Published 25.08.2017 10:45
Updated 25.08.2017 17:20
This file photo taken around 5 kilometres west from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 25, 2016 shows Turkish Army tanks driving to the Syrian Turkish border town of Jarabulus (AFP File Photo)
This file photo taken around 5 kilometres west from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 25, 2016 shows Turkish Army tanks driving to the Syrian Turkish border town of Jarabulus (AFP File Photo)

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım dismissed claims about Turkey preparing to extend Operation Euphrates Shield to Syria's Afrin and Idlib soon, saying that such cross-border offensive cannot taken place without proper planning, international consultation and more.

Speaking to reporters on his way back from an official trip to Singapore and Vietnam, Yıldırım said that Turkey will not initiate a cross-border operation out of nowhere.

"There needs to be international consultations, a legal ground and a legitimate reason to carry out a cross-border operation" Yıldırım said, adding that Turkey is currently cooperating with Russia and Iran.

"We would not attack a place for no reason. However, if certain conditions such as the security of life and property are threatened or sovereign rights are infringed upon, then we would be compelled to retaliate in kind," the prime minister said.

There are speculations of a possible counter-PKK operation targeting the terrorist organization's Syrian offshoot, the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, as well as an offensive against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (former Al-Nusra Front) terrorists, as an extension of Operation Euphrates Shield which was launched last year on Aug. 24 and ended on March 29, 2017.

Turkish media outlets have also claimed that Rusisa was withdrawing its troops from Afrin, paving the way for a possible Turkish operation.

As a result of effective counterterror operations against Daesh in territories along Turkey's border with Syria in Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters were able to successfully eradicate Daesh from Turkey's southern border, preventing the YPG militia from unifying its cantons.

In the operation, Daesh strongholds were defeated and more than 2,000 square kilometers of territory in northern Syria was seized from the militia. More than 50,000 Syrian refugees were relocated back to their hometowns in the liberated areas which include Jarablus, al-Bab, al-Rai and Azaz in northern Syria.

Meanwhile, speaking about the possibility of a confrontation between Turkish forces and NATO ally U.S. troops, Prime Minister Yıldırım said there is no reason for such an encounter to occur unless the U.S. fails to fulfill its pledges regarding the YPG.

"We will not confine ourselves to what has been said [by the U.S.]. We have taken all types of precautions" the prime minister added, regarding the U.S.'s pledge to withdraw arms given to the PYD/YPG after the Raqqa operation, adding: "Of course, if they display a stance toward the YPG issue that is contradictory to what they have already told us, then there would be a problem."

Turkey has consistently opposed the creation of a "terrorist state" along its borders in northern Syria, and has warned the PYD/YPG to withdraw from its borders.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have been testy in recent months regarding Syria, where the U.S. is arming the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly led by the YPG, under the pretext of fighting Daesh. On the other hand, Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency against Turkey and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Ankara argues that partnering with the YPG is not in line with regional balances, as the YPG has attempted to make demographics changes in areas captured from Daesh, against the interests of local Arab and Turkmen populations. In addition, the Turkish government says that arming the YPG has also become a national security threat to Turkey because Ankara does not differentiate between the PKK and the YPG. The weapons provided to the YPG could potentially be used against Turkey via the PKK.

Earlier in August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Russia understands Ankara's stance on the YPG better than the U.S.

Agreement reached with Russia on S-400 systems

Prime Minister Yıldırım also said Turkey and Russia had reached an agreement on the procurement of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, adding that the final decision will be made by the executive committee of Turkey's defense industry. President Tayyip Erdoğan had said late in July that Russia and Turkey had made progress in plans to procure the S-400s, adding that signatures had been taken. Turkey has agreed to pay Russia $2.5 billion for the S-400 systems, a Turkish official said on July 13, making the country the first NATO member to purchase the S-400 defense system.

With the purchase of the S-400's, Ankara aims to build Turkey's first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to guard against threats in the region. Moreover, Turkey seeks to build its own missile defense systems as the S-400 deal also involves the transfer of technology and technical know-how.

The S-400 missiles, which were introduced in 2007, are the new generation of Russian missile systems, and so far Russia has only sold them to China and India.

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