Turkey to continue Syria offensive 'until terrorists eliminated'

Turkish Ambassador to Doha Fikret Ozer said the military operation's goal is to guarantee return of Syrian refugees.

    Turkish military equipment is transported on a street in the Turkish border town of Akcakale [Stoyan Nenov/Reuters]
    Turkish military equipment is transported on a street in the Turkish border town of Akcakale [Stoyan Nenov/Reuters]

    Turkey's ambassador to Qatar has said his country's military operation in northern Syria will continue until the threat of "terrorism" at the Turkey-Syria border is wiped out.

    "We intend to continue the military operation in northern Syria in order to ensure the safety of our borders and until the terrorists are eliminated," Fikret Ozer said at a news conference in Doha on Monday.

    "The operation's end goal is aimed at guaranteeing the return of Syrian refugees," he added.

    Last week, Turkey launched an air and ground military operation in northeastern Syria. It says the offensive is aimed at removing Kurdish-led forces from the border area in northern Syria and setting up a so-called "safe zone" where millions of Syrian refugees can be resettled.

    The move came after the US President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw its troops from the area, whose presence had previously afforded the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by Kurdish fighters, some measure of protection from a potential Turkish attack.

    The SDF, a coalition of rebel groups which played a significant role in driving out the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) from territory it seized in 2014, has repeatedly warned it may not be able to guard the makeshift prisons holding the suspected ISIL fighters and camps where their relatives have been detained, as it battles to repel Turkey's military advance.

    The SDF is led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as "terrorists". The YPG has ties to the outlawed Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

    When asked about the Kurdish administration's recently announced deal with Damascus, in which Syrian government forces were set to deploy near the border with Turkey, he said that "the YPG-PKK is known for playing on different alliances".

    The Turkish ambassador also stressed that the military operation was "not directed against the Kurds".

    "The target is to contain the threat of the YPG/PKK," he said. "Some 300,000 Syrian Kurds sought refuge in Turkey and they don't want to go back because they fear for their lives."

    Erdogan seeks 'ultimate victory'

    Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said Turkey would not back down from its offensive "no matter what anyone says".

    "Our battle will continue until ultimate victory is achieved," he said during a speech in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.

    He also lambasted the European Union and the Arab League for their criticism of Turkey's operation and asked for international funds for Ankara's "safe zone" plans in northeastern Syria.

    The EU had earlier released a statement condemning the military operation and agreed to limit arms exports to Turkey, although the bloc stopped short of imposing an arms embargo.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News