According to the Turkish Foreign Minister, the country’s troops will stay in northern Syria until life returns to normal in the area.
Though, Turkey has “successfully accomplished” its military operation in northern Syria, known as Operation Euphrates Shield, Ankara is not going to withdraw its troops from the country until life returns to normal in the area, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during his flight to Brussels on Thursday.
“Residential areas need to be established there. The US says the same thing. Second, local forces that will be deployed to provide protection here need to be trained and equipped. We will evaluate reducing the number of troops or withdrawing entirely only after local forces are fully able to control this area,” the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Cavusoglu’s words.
As the newspaper noted, during his last visit to Ankara on March 30, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Cavusoglu discussed establishment of the so-called “interim stabilization zones” in Syria, which should allow Syrians to return their homeland. Cavusoglu noted that establishment of such zones would assume joint work and involvement of European countries, but, at the same time, added that regions, controlled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) could not be considered as “safe zones.”
“He asked us ‘why’, and I explained to him. We are hosting around 300,000 Syrian Kurds, who came to us from YPG-controlled regions. The majority of them were forced to leave their homes by the YPG, as they do not have the same ideology as this group. [The displaced] don’t accept the YPG oppression,” the Turkish Foreign Minister told the newspaper, mentioning Tel Abyad and Afrin.
According to Cavusoglu, the YPG has the only goal in Syria – “to establish a cantonal state,” and if Kurds enter the city of Raqqa, they will not leave it. According to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Tillerson has promised to cooperate with Turkey in order to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in particular in the Iraqi region of Sinjar.
“We will absolutely resort to a military option in Sinjar as long as [the PKK] will stay there,” Cavusoglu said. “[Sinjar] is no different from Kandil [a mountain in northern Iraq, where PKK has its main headquarters] for us. Today the US said the same thing to us, ‘We have all sorts of plans for the withdrawal and elimination of the PKK everywhere, including Sinjar. We will act together with you.’ [Tillerson] told this to our Prime Minister and President as well.”
At the same time, the newspaper noted that despite the fact that the US has promised to provide its support in the fight against the PKK, Tillerson tried avoided to response Turkey’s insistent calls on the Pentagon to stop its support, provided to the YPG as its main ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
In this way, it turns out that the recent remarks of the Turkish Foreign Minister contradict the statement, issued by the Turkish National Security Council on Wednesday, according to which Operation Euphrates Shield and all its goals, including ensuring national security, preventing the threat from the IS and return of Syrian refugees to their homes, were successfully completed.