Turkish citizens' security first priority in fight against Daesh, Ankara says

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Ankara has clarified Turkey's stance in future operations against the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, particularly in possible operations in Raqqa, saying that the security of Turkish citizens is the top priority.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara on Friday Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated, "The Raqqa issue is not our problem," referring to the Syrian city, which is the so-called capital of Daesh.

"We have a loud and clear stance there. We can be with you [the U.S.] against Daesh in the Raqqa operation, but if elements such as the PYD/YPG, which we identify as terrorist groups, join the operation, we will not provide support," Prime Minister Yıldırım said.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in late August to aid the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition forces to clear Syria's northern border area of terrorists. It is now in its 66th day. According to Turkey, PKK terrorist affiliates in Syria, namely the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People's Protect Units (YPG), are driving separatist motivations in northern Syria by creating cantons along the Turkish border. The PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD, are both listed as terrorist groups by Turkey, although the U.S. and EU only view the PKK as a terrorist organization.

PM Yıldırım said that fighting alongside "terrorists," especially the PKK, against another terror group was not suitable for a constitutional state.

"We will never work together with those terror groups," he added.

On Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed new potential routes for Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria as he spoke of the Free Syrian Army retaking, with the support of Turkey, Jarablus, Al-Rai and Dabiq.

"There are almost 30,000 people in Jarablus now. They have moved back to their hometown," Erdoğan said.

"Now we are on the way to al-Bab because al-Bab is an important headquarters for [Daesh]. They will leave al-Bab and the campaign will go on. We will head to Manbij and Raqqa," he added.

Both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Yıldırım have repeatedly voiced concern about including the YPG in operations, saying the fight against Daesh should be executed through supporting local forces.

The YPG presence has also become a matter of political friction between Ankara and Washington. Ankara argues that the U.S. support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), predominantly led by the YPG, is eventually being transferred to the PKK, and ultimately, used against Turkey. The U.S. regards the YPG as an ally in its fight against Daesh, while Turkey considers it a terrorist organization due to its links to the PKK, which has killed over 40,000 citizens during a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

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