If the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian branch, does not follow the withdrawal period as planned, Turkey will immediately resume Operation Peace Spring where it left off when the 120-hour period finishes, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday.
Speaking in northern Turkey's Rize province in the Black Sea region, Erdoğan said 765 terrorists were killed and a 1,500-square-meter area was cleared of terrorists in nine days.
Erdoğan also said that Turkey made a deal with the U.S. not with the terrorists and added, “We expect our U.S. allies to be committed to their promises this time.”
He also reiterated that Turkey will resume its operation if the terrorist group does not withdraw at the end of a 120-hour pause in the operation, as agreed upon.
On Saturday, Erdoğan once again stressed that Turkey will "crush" the PKK terrorist group and the YPG if they do not withdraw from the safe zone in northern Syria within the agreed time frame.
"We will crush the heads of the terrorists if they don't withdraw within the 120-hour period," Erdoğan said.
The president also noted that he will discuss with Russia's President Vladimir Putin areas in northern Syria where Assad regime forces are deployed during his visit to Sochi next week.
"Regime forces are present in some part of Turkey's anti-terror operation zone in northern Syria, I'll discuss this matter with Putin," he said.
However, he warned that Turkey would "implement its own plans" if they cannot reach a solution.
Speaking before Erdoğan, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkish troops in northern Syria are ready to continue their operation if a deal with Washington to pause the conflict while YPG terrorists withdraw is not fully implemented.
"We paused the operation for five days. In this time, the terrorists will withdraw from the safe zone, their weapons will be collected and positions destroyed. If this doesn't happen, we will continue the operation," Akar said.
"Our preparations are ready. With the necessary order, our soldiers are ready to go anywhere," he told the crowd an event in Kayseri.
Turkey and Washington agreed on Thursday for Ankara to halt its operation for 120 hours while YPG terrorists withdraw from a safe zone in northeastern Syria.
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 YPG, on Oct. 9.
Operation Peace Spring aims to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
The 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. Once completed, over 1 million Syrians will be able to return to their homes located in areas east of the Euphrates River, which has been under the control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group dominated by YPG terrorists.
The Defense Ministry said yesterday in a statement that the PKK and YPG terrorists have violated the safe zone deal with the U.S. 22 times since it came into effect on Oct. 17.
"Despite all the hostile acts in violation of the agreement, a convoy of 55 vehicles, mostly ambulances, safely entered and exited Ras al-Ain on Saturday" to help evacuate the wounded, the ministry said.
The ministry also said a Turkish soldier was killed and another one was injured during a patrol when PKK and YPG terrorists attacked them in Syria’s Tal Abyad region east of the Euphrates River.
Security forces retaliated against the terrorist attack within their right to self-defense, the ministry said in a statement.
Turkey calls on U.S. to use 'leverage' over YPG terrorists for withdrawal
Meanwhile, Turkey on Saturday urged the United States to use its "leverage" over the PKK-linked YPG to ensure an orderly pullout under an agreement reached with Washington, the presidency's spokesman said.
"We are committed to this agreement: Within five days they are supposed to leave and we have told our American colleagues to use their leverage, their connections to make sure that they leave without any incidents," Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in an interview in Istanbul.
Kalın said Turkey was sticking to its end of the deal.
"Since we reached this agreement with the American delegation, we have been committed to this deal," he said.
"Our president has ordered our troops to maintain their positions and not engage anybody."
Kalın noted that YPG terrorists perpetrated 16 attacks in the border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad.
"All the incidents that have happened were caused by the YPG terrorists there but our military people are in touch with their (American) counterparts to make sure that they leave without any fighting."
Kalın also said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants Assad regime forces to move out of areas near the Turkish border so it can resettle up to 2 million refugees there. He added that Erdoğan will raise the issue in talks next week with Syria's ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Regime troops have moved into several locations in northeastern Syria this week, invited by YPG-led terrorists to protect them from Turkey's counterterror operation.
Under an agreement made by the U.S. and Turkey, a pause has been in place since Friday evening to last for five days, during which YPG terrorists are supposed to pull back from border areas. The pause has been shaken by fighting in one border town, and there so far has been no sign of any withdrawals by YPG-led forces.
Kalın said Ankara does not want YPG terrorists to continue to operate in border areas under the control of Russian-backed regime forces. He said regime forces should move out of border areas because the refugees "don't want to go back to areas under regime control."
"This is one of the topics that we will discuss with the Russians, because, again, we are not going to force any refugees to go to anywhere they don't want to go," he said. "We want to create conditions that will be suitable for them to return where they will feel safe."
Turkey has taken in about 3.6 million Syrians fleeing the conflict in their homeland but wants most of them to return.
U.S. forces were previously deployed in parts of northeast Syria alongside YPG-led forces, but President Donald Trump withdrew them abruptly, opening the way for Turkey's operation 11 days ago.
Turkey’s op in Syria 'strategic' for regional security
Turkey's counter-terrorism operation in northern Syria launched to establish a safe zone was very "strategic, important and timely" not only for Turkey but also for Syria and for the stability and security of the region, the Turkish foreign minister said yesterday.
"We want to see that the terrorists withdraw from the declared safe zone within 120 hours," Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a live broadcast on the Kanal 7 news channel.
Underlining that a "PKK state" was planned to be established in the region, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey "spoiled a big game" with Operation Peace Spring.
Highlighting that the withdrawal of terrorist YPG and PKK forces from the planned safe zone is underway, Çavuşoğlu said terrorists continue to violate the safe zone deal between Turkey and U.S. despite the latter's instructions.
It was also reported that President Erdoğan held a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday regarding bilateral ties and regional developments, according to the Turkish Presidency of Communications.
According to the statement, the YPG terror group's withdrawal from northern Syria in line with Turkey-U.S. agreement, destruction of terror fronts and collecting heavy weaponry were discussed during the phone conversation.
Trump also yesterday shared a Twitter message saying: "The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly."