Any operation in Idlib will lead to ‘disaster,’ says Defense Minister Akar

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Any military operation in Syria’s Idlib would drag a region rife with problems to disaster, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said.

Idlib is on the brink of a new crisis. Turkey is working with Russia, Iran, and other allies to establish peace and stability [in Syria] and to stop the humanitarian tragedy,” Akar said.

“We should attach importance to developing cooperation among our countries in this period of uncertainty,” he added.

Akar’s remarks came during a meeting with ambassadors on Sept. 12.

“Bombing the region will not only cause damage to civilians and migration but also radicalization,” Akar said.

ocated near the Turkish border, Idlib province is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.

The Syrian regime has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive to the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.

The U.N. warned that such an offensive would lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century.”

The Turkish minister also said Turkey was fighting against multiple threats simultaneously.

“While fighting against FETÖ, PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK, on the other hand, we are hosting over 3 million Syrians,” Akar said.

Akar underlined that Turkey respects the territorial and political integrity of all of its neighbors.

“But we have never remained silent to any attack on our country from these countries, and we will not do so,” he added.

Akar said he believed “the PKK and the YPG are the same terrorist entities.”

[It’s] called the PKK in Turkey and Iraq and it is called YPG in Syria.”

The U.S. and the EU have the PKK listed as a terrorist group.

Turkey has repeatedly objected to U.S. support for the SDF, dominated by the YPG and which it considers a “reliable ally” in Syria, including supplying arms and equipment.

On Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch military operations, Akar said: “We have neutralized over 3,000 ISIL terrorists in Operations Euphrates Shield. As Turkey, we are the only country fighting against ISIL face-to-face. Other countries are conducting airstrikes.”

“We neutralized over 5,000 PKK and ISIL terrorists in Operation Olive Branch,” Akaradded. Turkish authorities use the word “neutralize” to indicate the militant in question either surrendered or was killed or captured.

Turkey said it launched Operation Euphrates Shield, which began on Aug. 24, 2016, and ended in March 2017, to eliminate ISIL along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab, and Azaz with the use of the Free Syrian Army backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove the YPG from Afrin. On March 18, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army took full control over Afrin district center.

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