The failure of the international community to help Turkey deal with millions of refugees prompted the county's peace operation in northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday.
In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Erdoğan said no country has felt the pain of the ensuing humanitarian crisis more severely than Turkey since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. "At a certain point, Turkey reached its limit," he said, adding that the world has ignored Turkey's repeated warnings of its inability to tackle the problem of caring for more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees without international support. "My administration concluded that the international community wasn't going to act, so we developed a plan for northern Syria," said Erdoğan. "Absent an alternative plan to deal with the refugee crisis, the international community should either join our efforts or begin admitting refugees."
Speaking on the issue during the 7th Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) in Azerbaijan's capital Baku yesterday, Erdoğan said just seven days after it began, Turkey's ongoing anti-terror operation has cleared a vast area of northern Syria from terrorists.
"As of this morning [Tuesday], we have liberated an area of around 1,000 square kilometers from the occupation of the separatist terror group," the president said.
"Terror groups are the biggest source of threat to peace, tranquility and stability in our region," Erdoğan added. Turkey "took a very important step to eliminate the [People's Protection Units] YPG terror group on Oct. 9," the day it launched Operation Peace Spring, he said.
He underlined that with the operation, Turkey aims to clear northern Syria of terrorists stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi-Turkish border and to provide voluntary resettlement of around 3 million Syrians in their home country. Meanwhile, Assad regime forces have taken full control of Manbij and its neighboring settlements, the Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday. "The Syrian government army has full control over the city of Manbij and nearby settlements," said the ministry in a statement, adding that Russian soldiers were also deployed to the district and were in contact with the Turkish army.
The president also highlighted that Turkey will continue its anti-terror operation in northern Syria until all goals have been achieved. "We expect strong support from our brothers regarding Turkey's fight against terrorism," Erdoğan told the Turkic countries.
WORLD MUST BACK TURKEY'S EFFORTS"The European Union and the world should support what Turkey is trying to do," the president concluded, explaining that Turkey's efforts would benefit not only the country itself but also the whole world, especially Europe. However, despite the president's remarks, some European countries still seem confused about how to respond to the operation as they continue to contradict themselves.
"We insist that military actions be stopped. Diplomacy is the only way that can solve this conflict," Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told reporters after a meeting of the country's consultative Security Council on the situation in Syria. However, Borissov also expressed how he is concerned over a possible new refugee flow toward Europe.
"I want the deal with Turkey to be respected... If 50,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 migrants enter Bulgaria, I do not know what will happen with the country... And while Turkey is following the agreement with Bulgaria at 100%, I am obliged to support that position," Borissov said, supporting the refugee deal while ignoring the fact that a new refugee flow is exactly what Turkey is trying to avo
id through this operation. Borissov is not the only European leader that condemned Turkey's operation. It has also received unfair criticisms from the international community, which tries to portray a scene as if the country launches such an initiative out of no reason. Yet, many other countries stand by Turkey.
The Hungarian foreign minister said yesterday his country would cooperate with Turkey over a safe zone in Syria which would enable the return of refugees.
"If Turkey establishes a safe zone in Syria to enable the return of families which had to flee Syria, Hungary will be delighted to cooperate with Turkey," Peter Szijjarto told Hungarian state media in Azerbaijan, where he is participating a summit of the Turkic Council.
Referring to Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, Szijjarto said if Turkey solved the Syrian refugee problem inside Syria, that would be in line with Hungary's interests. Hungary blocked the EU's joint declaration over the operation, he also said previously. Qatar also defended Turkey's anti-terrorist operation in northern Syria yesterday, saying Ankara had acted against an "imminent threat."
"We can't put all the blame on Turkey," Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at a Global Security Forum meeting in Doha, adding that Ankara had been forced to respond to an "imminent threat for Turkish security."
"At the beginning (Turkey) said, ‘don't support these groups,'" Al-Thani said, referring to the YPG.
"Nobody listened. They have been trying to solve this issue now for more than a year with the U.S., to create a safe zone to get the threat away from their border."
"The YPG is from a branch of the PKK which is declared a terrorist organization in the U.S., EU, Turkey - everywhere," said Al-Thani. There are also countries like the U.K., which, despite criticizing the operation, has some politicians that are empathizing with Turkey's concerns. Turkey needs to carry out the operation in northeastern Syria to defend itself in the face of the terrorist threat, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday.
Wallace justified Turkey's Operation Peace Spring targeting the PKK terrorist group's Syrian offshoot in a speech at a NATO parliamentary assembly in London. "Turkey has had and still does have a threat emanating toward it from groups such as the PKK, a terrorist organization in this country as well, and Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself," Wallace said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday said Britain will halt new arms export licenses to Turkey as a result of concern over its military operation.
"The U.K. government takes its arms export control responsibilities very seriously and in this case, of course, we will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review," Raab told parliament.
Norway also criticized Turkey but rejected any idea that would suggest the country's removal from NATO. "I think it's better to have Turkey inside NATO than outside NATO," Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin's envoy for Syria yesterday also called Turkey's military offensive in northeast Syria "unacceptable" and complained that the operation had not been cleared by Moscow in advance, the Interfax news agency reported.