BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
Türkiye will not allow the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian offshoot YPG to take shelter in Syria and Iraq, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday.
“We will not allow the PKK/YPG to take shelter in Syria and Iraq. We will definitely not allow this. No matter what anyone says about it, we will do whatever is necessary,” Çavuşoğlu told the Parliament in the capital Ankara.
“In Syria, we have been in talks with the (Bashar Assad) regime for a while through the intelligence services. If the regime acts realistically, we are ready to work together on the fight against terrorism, the political process, and the return of Syrians. It is unthinkable otherwise,” Çavuşoğlu also highlighted.
Çavuşoğlu further said that Türkiye follows the same policy in Iraq, adding that Ankara offers cooperation in fighting terrorism to both, Iraq’s central and regional governments.
“If our interlocutors listen to our calls, we will march together and fight terrorism together. If they remain unresponsive, we will pull ourselves by our own bootstraps,” he added.
Recently, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing, the YPG, which have illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil.
The country’s air operation followed a PKK/YPG terrorist attack on Nov. 13 on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured. The Turkish Defense Ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
After the air operation was launched, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also signaled a ground operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding: “This is not limited to just an air operation.”
The president specified northern Syria’s YPG-controlled Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ain al-Arab regions as possible targets to clear of terrorists.
The Turkish leader has threatened a new military operation into northern Syria since May and upped those threats in the wake of this month’s attack. Erdoğan has repeatedly called for a 30-kilometer safe zone to protect Türkiye against cross-border attacks from Syrian territory.
“We know the identity, location and track record of the terrorists. We also know very well who patronizes, arms and encourages terrorists,” Erdoğan also recently said, referring to the U.S. support for the YPG.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Türkiye and the European Union, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara. The PKK/YPG has controlled much of northeastern Syria after the forces of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad withdrew in 2012. The U.S. primarily partnered with PKK/YPG terrorists in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Türkiye strongly opposed the PKK/YPG’s presence in northern Syria.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the PKK/YPG, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Türkiye has conducted its counterterrorism operations throughout, removing a significant number of terrorists from the region.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful ground operations against terrorist groups to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019).
Hydrocarbons deal with Libya
Turning to Libya, Çavuşoğlu said Türkiye continues to reap the results of the active policy it followed in the oil-rich country in 2019.
“You can all see what the hydrocarbon memorandum of understanding, which we signed in Tripoli in October, has done to Greece.”
“Last week, in response to Greece’s decision to engage in hydrocarbon activities in the south of Crete, Libya took steps to uphold the Maritime Jurisdiction Agreement it signed with us,” Çavuşoğlu said.
On Oct. 3, Türkiye and the Government of National Unity of Libya signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in hydrocarbons. The deal envisages the development of bilateral scientific, technical, technological, legal, administrative, and commercial cooperation in hydrocarbons, both on land and at sea.
The minister said that last week, Greece complained to the U.N. about the deal, adding: “Together with Libya, we conveyed our joint response to this letter to the U.N.”
The letter of Athens, which Çavuşoğlu defines as “purely demagogic,” claimed that the deal violates Greece’s sovereign rights and international law.
“This achievement (signing of MoU) will determine the balances in the Eastern Mediterranean for generations,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Oil-rich Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi was ousted after four decades in power.
Türkiye deems the holding of free, fair, and nationwide elections in line with the aspirations of the Libyan people as soon as possible crucial for lasting stability in Libya.