Turkey's Syria operation not targeting Kurds - Ankara

Turkish presidential spokesman says Turkey’s offensive is not targeting Syrian Kurds, but aims to ensure border security against armed groups.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Turkish army tank drives towards the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, on August 25, 2016.

Turkey’s ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria has not been launched in order to hamper Kurdish gains, Turkey's presidential spokesman said on Wednesday.

“Turkey has no problems with Syrian Kurds. Turkey has no problem with Turkey’s Kurds, Iraq’s Kurds, and Iranian Kurds. Therefore, we have no problem with any Kurds who are living in our region or any other place in the world,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference.

Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin delivers a speech during a press conference at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on August 31, 2016. Image: AA

“We have a problem with PKK and [other] terrorist organisations,” Kalin said.

As a result, YPG, the militant wing of PYD, will remain a target for Turkish forces as long as they are positioned west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria, Kalin indicated.

PYD is the Syrian extension of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, EU, and NATO. Turkey declared any incursion west of the Euphrates River by the YPG a red line at a National Security Council (MGK) meeting on June 29, 2015.

The YPG already controls an uninterrupted 400 km stretch of the border and intends to take over crucial territory between Jarablus and Azaz, which is mostly controlled by DAESH, before Operation Euphrates Shield hinders their advance.

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their weapons on the outskirts of Jarablus, Syria, ahead of an offensive against DAESH forces, on August 24, 2016. Image: Reuters

No truce with YPG

Kalin also expressed Turkey’s frustration with the recent US stance concerning Ankara’s Syria operation and YPG maneuvers in northern Syria. “At times, American officials make statements which equal Turkey with PYD and YPG terrorist organisations. Those expressions are unacceptable.”

"The United States welcomes the overnight calm between the Turkish military and other counter-ISIL forces in Syria," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, using an acronym for DAESH.

A YPG-allied group, which is calling itself Jarablus Military Council, previously claimed that a temporary ceasefire was "under the oversight of the international coalition led by the United States."

Turkey has not agreed to any truce with the YPG in Syria, Kalin declared. He said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was concerned by increasing attacks near the Syrian city of Aleppo and was making diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire there.

"There is no truce and no ceasefire. But there has been a pause for some time," a commander of the Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria, who declined to be identified, told Reuters by telephone, adding that the operation would resume shortly.

The Turkish foreign ministry also said in a statement that Ankara’s military operation in Syria would continue until all armed threats to Turkish security were removed.

Turkey and the US have some serious differences over issues surrounding northern Syria and the PYD presence in the region.

Ankara considers the PYD a terrorist group, though the US administration regards the group as the most effective ally on the ground in the fight against DAESH.

This dichotomy has recently led to growing tension between Ankara and Washington.

TRTWorld and agencies