Ankara will not tolerate a terrorist corridor to be established along its borders, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said yesterday, referring to the presence of the PKK-affiliated terrorist organization People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria and northern Iraq.
"The determination of our country continues east of the Euphrates and in Manbij. East of the Euphrates and Manbij will be cleared of the YPG. We will never allow a terror corridor to be established on our borders," Akar stressed in the eastern Anatolian province of Kars where he traveled to attend a military exercise launched by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Referring to the safe zone idea, which was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in January to establish a secured area in northern Syria along the length of its border with the assistance of U.S.-led coalition forces, Akar said a safe zone should be formed under the supervision of Ankara.
"In this way, the region becomes stable, Turkey's borders are preserved and the refugee problem is solved," Akar added, highlighting that Turkey will continue its efforts to eliminate threats against its security.
Akar visited Kars to participate in the 2019 winter military exercise, where 251 personnel from 15 countries participated in the ceremony.
The 2019 winter military exercise in eastern Kars was launched by the 14th Mechanized Infantry Brigade on Feb. 4 and is expected to end today.
Speaking in southeastern Turkey's Hakkari province on Wednesday, Akar reiterated Turkey's determination to end the threat posed by the YPG in Syria's Manbij region and east of the Euphrates.
"Our armed forces prepared well and are continuing to prepare [to hit terror targets in Manbij and east of the Euphrates]. Preparations have been made. In the coming period, when the time comes, this YPG threat will be terminated by the necessary operations," Akar noted.
In early June, Turkey and the U.S. inked the Manbij agreement, focusing on the withdrawal of the YPG from the northeastern Syrian province and joint patrols to be conducted by the militaries of both countries to establish stability in the region.
The slow progress in the implementation of the Manbij deal is also causing distress in Ankara, as the terrorist group continues to tighten its grip on these areas by establishing political entities due to delays on the part of the U.S.
Ankara and Washington have been at odds for some time now due to the latter's close partnership with the YPG. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey. The U.S., however, while listing the PKK as a terrorist group, opted to continue its steadfast military support for the terrorist organization under the pretext of fighting Daesh, despite the warnings of its NATO ally.
Akar underscored that it is time to hit terrorist points in Manbij and east of the Euphrates, saying Turkey's fight against terrorism is proceeding in a determined way as it wants to close this page once the last terrorist is neutralized by security forces.
"What we do is provide security for our people and borders. We are not eyeing any country's territory. We respect Syria and Iraq's territorial and political integrity," Akar said, highlighting Turkey's plan to conduct a cross-border operation as its neighbors in the south, Syria and Iraq, are now unable to do it.
Meanwhile, with an accompanying delegation, Akar and Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler traveled to the U.S. yesterday for talks on Syria and regional developments. Akar is expected to meet with U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, while talks are expected to focus on bilateral relations and regional developments, particularly in Syria.