Turkey’s operation into the Idlib province of Syria will continue until all sources of threats are eliminated, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli has said, while adding that Turkish troops are there to help the Free Syrian Army (FSA) protect their homeland.
“We have to be there until all threats posed to Turkey from Syria are eliminated,” Canikli said during his visit to Georgia on Oct. 10, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Canikli said the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) operation into Idlib was part of its deal with Russia and Iran, as guarantor countries, to establish de-escalation zones in Syria. Some TSK elements have already crossed the border in cooperation with the FSA.
He said the TSK and the FSA were moving together in Syria. “They are defending their own country and we are supporting them,” he added.
When asked when the operation would end, he said “God knows; whenever the threat is eliminated.”
‘Terror in Syria will be eliminated’
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, in his address to Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers on Oct. 10, stressed Turkey, Russia and Iran will encircle the entire Idlib province and halt terrorist elements in the region after civilians and armed jihadist groups are separated from each other.
“We have to be very careful with this,” he said. “Everyone should feel relaxed. We know what we are doing. We are aiming to prioritize the rights of civilians and innocent people. We take responsibility in contributing to peace and stability in the region,” he added.
Turkey’s operation will also allow the flow of humanitarian aid into Syria and prevent a potential new refugee inflow into Turkey, he said.
Turkey, Iraq, Iran to meet over KRG
Yıldırım once again reiterated Turkey’s strong opposition to the independence referendum held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). He stressed Turkey’s sanctions against the KRG did not target civilians in the region, but “Our problem is with the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, which aims to deteriorate the gains of the Kurdish people. They should know that we will not tolerate any fait accompli in the region.”
He informed that Turkey, Iraq and Iran will soon come together to decide on future sanctions against the KRG.
CHP questions Idlib operation
Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu voiced his party’s criticisms of the government’s Syria policy through the Idlib operation under six-article statement.
Accusing the government of pursuing “mistaken policies” on Syria since the start of the civil war, which has cost Turkey around $30 billion so far in order to host up to four million refugees, Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey’s image has never before “been tarnished so badly.”
“Who are the ones in Idlib? Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, whose core is made up of the Nusra Front. Does Erdoğan see Nusra as a terrorist group? No. On the contrary, they have sent weapons and ammunitions to Nusra,” he said.
“The Turkish people are paying the price for the AKP’s mistaken policies. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is responsible for every killed soldier [in the Idlib operation],” he said.
The CHP head also suggested that Turkey will simply clear the region of jihadists before leaving it to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
“As they have announced, Russian will stay on the outside of Idlib and Turkey will be inside. So Turkish troops will be the ones in hell,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.