Erdogan says Syria's al-Bab 'will soon' be cleared from Daesh

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul before leaving for a visit to Gulf countries, Turkish President Erdogan said after al-Bab Turkey will focus on Menbij and Raqqa, self-proclaimed capital of Daesh in Syria.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reviews a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, February 7, 2017

Updated Feb 13, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Daesh had been surrounded from all sides in Syria's northern city of al-Bab.

"Al-Bab will soon be cleared from Daesh,” he told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport before leaving for a three-day visit to the Gulf region.

"Then, to the east, there are the issues of Manbij and Raqqa that need to be resolved," he added.

Reiterating that the first goal in Syria is the establishment of safe zones, Erdogan said: "Goal here (Syria) is the creation of a 4-5 thousand square kilometre terror-free safe zone. Once this is done, it will stem the refugee flow, provide living space for people escaping the situation and allow people to return to their homes. To do this, we will have to establish cities inside the safe zone."

Turkey has long advocated a "safe zone" for civilians in northern Syria cleared of Daesh militants and the PKK's Syrian wing PYD/YPG but says such an area would need to be policed by a no-fly zone.

Turkish President Erdogan said he had discussed this again with the United States and Russia and that Turkey was prepared to do the infrastructure work in the zone, to help prevent migration from Syria and allow those who had fled to Turkey to go home.

Operation Euphrates Shield

Erdogan said that Turkish forces have captured the most strategic location inside the city a few days ago.

"Daesh forces have started the process of leaving al Bab. I believe the liberation of al-Bab will be complete very soon," Erdogan said.

TRT World's IoIo Ap Dafydd has more details from Gaziantep.

Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield was launched on August 24, 2017 with the aim of ridding its borders of the presence of terrorist groups including Daesh and the YPG, a Syrian-offshoot of the PKK, which the US and Ankara designate as a terrorist group.

Turkish General Staff also released a statement on Sunday saying at least 42 Daesh terrorists had been "neutralised" in northern Syria in the last 24 hours as part of the ongoing military operation.

In addition, 174 Daesh targets, including shelters, headquarters, defence positions and vehicles were destroyed by Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters with Turkish Land Forces' support.

Turkish fighter jets also destroyed 33 buildings that were used as hideouts, the military added.

TRTWorld and agencies