Er­do­gan: Turkey will not leave Syria un­til oth­ers do

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

ANKARA: Turkey will not leave Syria un­til other coun­tries pull out, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan was quoted as say­ing Fri­day, and Ankara will con­tinue its cross-bor­der of­fen­sive against Kur­dish fighters un­til ev­ery one of them has left the re­gion.

Turkey launched its third mil­i­tary in­cur­sion into north­east Syria last month to drive Kur­dish YPG fighters from its bor­der and es­tab­lish a “safe zone” where it aims to set­tle up to 2 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees.

Af­ter seiz­ing a 120-kilo­me­ter swath of land along the bor­der, Turkey struck deals with the United States and Rus­sia to keep the Kur­dish mili­tia out of that area.

Speak­ing to re­porters on his flight home from a trip to Hun­gary, Er­do­gan said Turkey would only leave Syria once other coun­tries have left as well, adding that the Turk­ish of­fen­sive would con­tinue un­til all mil­i­tants leave the area.

“We will not let up un­til ev­ery last ter­ror­ist leaves the re­gion,” Er­do­gan said, re­fer­ring to the YPG, the main com­po­nent of the U.S.-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces that Ankara views as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We will not leave here un­til the other coun­tries get out,” he was cited as say­ing by broad­caster NTV.

Ankara be­gan its of­fen­sive af­ter Trump an­nounced an abrupt with­drawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from north­ern Syria last month. The U.S. pres­i­dent has since said that some troops will con­tinue to op­er­ate there.

Un­der its deals with Washington and Moscow, Ankara paused its of­fen­sive in re­turn for the with­drawal of the YPG fighters. While U.S. and Rus­sian of­fi­cials have said the Kur­dish fighters have left the re­gion, Er­do­gan Thurs­day ac­cused Rus­sia and the United States of not ful­fill­ing their part.

With the deal Ankara struck with Moscow, Turk­ish and Rus­sian troops have been hold­ing joint pa­trols along the Turk­ish bor­der with Syria. Fri­day, the troops com­pleted a third pa­trol, but a spokesper­son for the SDF said Turk­ish troops had used tear gas against some civil­ians protest­ing against the pa­trols.

“Turk­ish troops tar­geted civil­ians peace­fully protest­ing against the pa­trols … with tear gas and in­jured 10 peo­ple,” SDF spokesper­son Mustafa Bali tweeted.

Turkey’s De­fense Min­istry said in a state­ment that the third pa­trol was com­pleted as planned on an 88-km route along the most east­erly sec­tion of the bor­der at a depth of 10 km.

Turkey’s Euro­pean al­lies have said the of­fen­sive will hin­der the bat­tle against Daesh (ISIS). Ankara has re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion, say­ing its al­lies should back its plans to re­set­tle the majority of the 3.5 mil­lion Syr­ian mi­grants Turkey hosts.

Ibrahim Kalin, a top aide to Er­do­gan, said Fri­day that the lead­ers of Ger­many, France, Bri­tain and Turkey would meet on the side­lines of a NATO sum­mit in Lon­don on Dec. 3-4 to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion in Syria. –

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