Turkey is determined to eradicate the threat of terrorism on its borders by actively fighting against terrorists on the field and by drawing the international community’s attention on this new threat that is harming the whole world.
“We have no problem with Kurds or any other ethnic group. We fight only terrorist organizations,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Sunday, speaking at the 19th Doha Forum in Qatar. He said nothing has changed in Turkey’s determination to fight all kinds of terrorist organizations, including Daesh, the PKK and the People's Protection Units (YPG).
Drawing attention to the new threats that face the international community, Akar said that terrorism, radical ideologies, collapsed governments, proxy wars, frozen conflicts and mass migration have been added to the longstanding list of threats. Akar also mentioned that the actors, factors and risks affecting the developments in international relations have increased and that transnational terrorism is an especially big threat.
Accordingly, extremist groups and individuals not only harm their own country but also other countries around the world, necessitating new fields of cooperation in the face of new struggles. The minister underlined that Turkey is ready to cooperate with everyone in order to enhance international peace and security in all these fields.
Turkey has been the country that suffered most from terrorism in recent times and the one that has been actively fighting it for decades. The PKK has been waging war on the country for almost 40 years, killing more than 30,000 people.
“When some countries started to support the YPG under the pretext of fighting Daesh in Syria, we warned them against the risks of trying to fight a terrorist organization with another one,” Akar said, adding that the YPG still receives support and weapons from allied countries that are directly used by the PKK against Turkey.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also touched on western countries’ inability to act against new threats, stating: “Daesh’s inhumane videos and terrorist acts are carried out not with weapons but trucks. A few migrant boats trying to come aboard Greece and Italy’s shores have been enough to detract Europe from their codes of civilization. The world, the future of which they were allegedly planning, is today in a visionless and directionless state.”
Speaking at the general assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), Soylu stressed that Turkey’s security concerns not only include the PKK but also the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the YPG and Daesh.
“First we eradicated FETÖ with the July 15 resistance, then Daesh with (Operation) Euphrates Shield, then we hit the PKK/YPG’s terror corridor project by entering Afrin with Operation Olive Branch. Thereafter we focused on Qandil with Operation Claw and lastly we removed the PKK/YPG for good with Operation Peace Spring,” Soylu added, highlighting that Operation Claw will hinder the winter formation of the PKK, which is already having difficulties in logistics and finding recruits for the organization.
On May 27, Turkey launched Operation Claw against the PKK in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq. The ongoing offensive has eliminated dozens of terrorists. As a follow-up to the successful offensive, the operation was expanded with Claw-2 and Claw-3 to prevent the winter formation of the terrorists. All three operations have secured an area of 370 kilometers, preventing terrorists from entering Turkey or gaining a foothold in the region. Operation Claw has also targeted terrorist elements in Zap, Avasin, Basyan, Gara, Metina and Qandil in air and ground attacks.
The number of terrorists in the country has declined to nearly 500 for the first time due to effective anti-terror operations and strategies, the Interior Ministry announced Thursday. Underling that Turkey has made important gains in its war on terror in the last three years, the ministry noted that more than 1,100 terrorists surrendered on their own during this period.
“Today’s Turkey is not the old Turkey regarding its fight against the PKK. There is a Turkey focused on developing eastern and southeastern Anatolia,” Soylu said, adding that this success can be seen clearly as tourists filled the space left by terrorists. These tourists are evidence against the claim that there is “no safety of life and property in Turkey,” according to Soylu.
“The ‘ill fate of the East’ has been transformed into the ‘ill fate of the PKK’; now Qandil has to think about that,” Soylu continued.
Ethnic groups protected against terrorism
Turkey established a peace corridor with its Operation Peace Spring launched on Oct. 9, aiming to enable refugees to return to liberated areas in northern Syria. Indicating that Turkey plans to provide the voluntary and honorable return of almost 2 million displaced Syrians including Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and Chaldeans, Akar once again underlined that Turkey’s sole target is to eradicate terrorism.
As it did in previous operations, Turkey paid the utmost attention to protect civilians, all ethnic and religious groups, historical and cultural structures, and infrastructure. Yet, Akar also mentioned that despite the agreements struck with the U.S. and Russia, which envisaged that terrorist organizations had to be removed from the safe zone area, terrorist attacks and violations still continued.
Stating that Operation Peace Spring was launched within the framework of the Adana agreement, Akar said that the operation was in accordance with international law and the U.N.’s decisions of the legitimate right for defense and fight against terrorism.
The Adana Agreement was signed between Turkey and Syria in October 1998, and clearly stated that Syria would not allow any PKK activities within its borders and would block any terrorist activities that would threaten Turkey's sovereignty.
Liberated areas in northern Syria have been put back on the road to normalization with reconstruction work. Citizens frequently voice that every day life is improving as a result of the reconstruction of the infrastructure, schools and hospitals, while roads and waterworks are also being repaired. Akar noted that patrols are conducted together with efforts to clear areas from explosives.
“Terrorism continued to be an emergency security threat for the world. Terrorist organizations can adopt different names, forms and strategies, however, we have to be alert against all manifestations. Just as Daesh cannot represent Muslims, the PKK/YPG cannot represent Kurds. Kurds are our brothers. We will not allow a terror corridor to be established on our southern borders,” Akar highlighted, saying that Turkey wants a stable, democratic and politically united neighbor.
Soylu said 370,000 people returned from Turkey to Afrin, Jarablus, Azaz and al-Bab as Turkey rendered these areas livable, pointing out that Turkey did not create a system of exploitation as the U.S. and Europe did. Apart from the voluntary return of Syrians, Turkey has also repatriated 99,000 illegal immigrants to their countries this year.
Turkey has captured 423,000 illegal immigrants this year. The number of refugees who have died trying to cross the Aegean this year is 33, a significant decrease from previous years. On the other side of the Aegean, refusing to face its responsibilities in the refugee crisis, Greece continues to mistreat refugees crossing its borders, forcefully pushing back migrants and forcing them to seek protection in Turkey, as seen in the recently published footage by German weekly Der Spiegel.
While Turkey has been fulfilling its own part of the 2016 refugee deal, Greece has chosen a different route by illegally pushing back migrants. According to Turkey's Interior Ministry, in the first 10 months of 2019, 25,404 irregular migrants were pushed back into Turkey by Greece, a significant increase from the 11,867 migrants pushed back in 2018. Under international laws and conventions, Greece is obliged to register any illegal migrants entering its territory; yet, this is not the case for thousands of migrants who were forcibly returned to Turkey.
Turkey left alone fighting terrorism
“We have been saying the same things since the crisis in Syria erupted in 2011. We tell our interlocutors that this is not only a threat for Turkey or Syria, but also for NATO and Europe, because this region has been turning into not only a source for terrorists but rather terrorist organizations,” Akar said, adding that countries must come together as NATO and take precautions against the crisis. “Yet, unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful and we (Turkey) have been left alone,” he said. Akar also pointed out that NATO focused on Syria as of 2015.
Turkey has been actively conducting counterterrorism operations against Daesh since 2016. Since then, 4,517 of the 13,696 suspects detained in 4,536 operations have been arrested. Over the course of the operations, 1,018 terrorists were either killed or injured, or surrendered. In order to apprehend Daesh suspects, 64 risk analysis units that include experts on terrorism and intelligence were formed across the country. The units regularly monitor suspects that operate within their region, as well as all other developments regarding the terrorist group, both within and outside the country.
“Turkey has been on the frontlines in the fight against Daesh. A total of 3,000 Daesh terrorists were eliminated in Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016. Seventy-two heroes of the Turkish military lost their lives during this operation,” the defense minister said, underlining that Turkey is struggling with more than one terrorist organization.
The country's efforts against Daesh made it a primary target for the Daesh terrorist group, which carried out numerous gun and bomb attacks targeting security forces and civilians, including the country's deadliest terror attack, which killed 102 people and wounded 400 others in a twin suicide bombing at a rally in the capital Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015.
Akar also talked about the black propaganda going on in several media outlets since Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring and pointed out that news and propaganda created by terrorists should not be regarded.
“All of our operations and activities are within national, ethical, moral and professional values,” Akar said.