Turkey urges Russia to reach agreements to rid northern Syria of terrorists

Turkey expects Russia to respect the commitments made in Syria against terrorist organizations and respect the agreements signed in 2019, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday, reiterating Ankara’s call for the north Syria, near the Turkish borders, is rid of terrorist groups threatening security and stability in the region. .

Holding a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the capital Ankara, Çavuşoğlu said that terrorist groups threatening Syria had also upped the ante against Turkey and stressed the need to eliminate them.

Turkey expects the United States and Russia to respect the commitments made in Syria against terrorist organizations and to respect the agreements signed in 2019, he added.

For his part, Lavrov protested against US support for terrorist organizations in Syria, saying Moscow experienced a similar problem in the Caucasus in the 1990s.

During the meeting, the two ministers also discussed the Syrian Constitutional Committee negotiations in Geneva which ended on Friday, seeking a solution to the ongoing civil war, according to Lavrov.

He admitted that the two countries have different views on many things, however, “when Russia and Turkey have differences, they respect each other’s positions, this is the key to achievements in relations “.

The meeting took place after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced two weeks ago that Turkey would soon launch new military operations in northern Syria against the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group, the YPG, which Ankara considers as a terrorist organization.

Ankara says it must act because Washington and Moscow failed to deliver on their promise to push back the YPG 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border after a Turkish operation in 2019, adding that attacks from areas controlled by the YPG have increased.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday that Turkey would respond to moves to disrupt stability in northern Syria, his office said, as Ankara prepares for talks with Moscow ahead of a planned operation in the region. .

Akar said in Shoigu that “the necessary response will be given to actions aimed at disrupting the stability achieved in the region and the presence of terrorists in the region is not acceptable,” the defense ministry said in a statement adding that ‘Akar had also “recalled that previous agreements on this matter must be respected.”

“The importance of continuing close cooperation in Syria aimed at maintaining long-term stability in the region was noted. Russian-Turkish contacts on these issues will continue,” Moscow said of the meeting by phone.

Turkey will do whatever is necessary when the time comes, Akar said recently of a possible military operation in northern Syria.

Regarding Erdoğan’s statements that Tal Rifaat and Manbij would be the target of a possible operation, Akar said: “As also expressed by our president, the attempts to harass and attack us are concentrated in these two regions. We respond to in-kind attack attempts. We are ready to do what is necessary, when necessary.” Asked about the timing of the operation, Akar said, “Everything necessary will be done at the right time and in the right place.”

Erdoğan has vowed to capture the towns of Tal Rifaat and Manbij in Syria’s northern Aleppo province which are held by the YPG terror group.

“We are taking another step by establishing a 30 kilometer security zone along our southern border. We will clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij,” he said last week, adding that planned military operations would gradually continue in other parts of northern Syria.

Erdoğan said that since the United States and Russia have not fulfilled their commitments to provide a safe zone along the border region, Turkey is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and the people of northern Syria from the terrorist threat of the YPG.

In October 2019, Russia pledged to withdraw the terror group from Tal Rifaat and Manbij after reaching an agreement with Turkey during Operation Peace Spring. Moscow also promised that terrorists would be pushed back 30 kilometers from the border on the M4 highway and to the area outside the Operation Peace Spring area. Similarly, then-Vice President Mike Pence promised Turkey that the YPG/PKK terrorist group would withdraw from the Operation Peace Spring region. But neither Moscow nor Washington kept their promises.

Turkish-backed operations in previous years have ousted the YPG/PKK from Afrin’s northwestern enclave and a series of border towns further east.

Meanwhile, US-backed YPG forces said on Tuesday they would coordinate with Syrian regime troops to repel any Turkish operations in the north and protect Syrian territory.

The new threats highlighted the complex web of ties in northern Syria: while Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization, YPG forces are backed by Washington and have also coordinated with the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.

Turkey has backed opposition groups in clashes against Bashar Assad’s forces and the YPG. It has used warplanes and increasingly drones to target YPG-held territory, where terrorist forces have established a separate system of governance from Damascus.

Syrian opposition forces have also said they are ready to join the Turkish army in a possible new cross-border counter-terrorism operation against the YPG in the north to liberate cities and towns with large Arab populations from terrorists.

The YPG/PKK mainly carries out terrorist attacks in Manbij, Ain al-Arab and the Tal Rifaat neighborhood in Aleppo. The terrorist group even uses these regions as bases for its attacks. The YPG, which occupies about a third of Syrian territory with US support, frequently targets Azaz, Marea, al-Bab, Jarablus, Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain in the north of the country with heavy weapons. In their attacks, the terrorists use advanced heavy weapons such as TOW missiles, multi-barreled rocket launchers, Katyusha and Grad missiles as well as US and Russian-made rocket launchers and mortars.

The YPG has controlled much of northeastern Syria since the withdrawal of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad’s forces in 2012. The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the United States, Turkey, and the European Union, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major constraint. on bilateral relations with Ankara. The United States has mainly partnered with the YPG in northeast Syria to fight the terrorist group Daesh. By contrast, Turkey has firmly opposed the YPG’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long opposed US support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes the local population, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.

While acknowledging Turkey’s security concerns, Washington has expressed concern over Ankara’s plans, saying a new operation could undermine regional stability and put US forces at risk. Russia also said last week that it hoped Turkey would “refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria.”

Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terrorist corridor and allow the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019). ).

In 2019, an operation in northeast Syria against the YPG drew widespread international condemnation, prompting Finland, Sweden and others to restrict arms sales to Turkey. Today, Turkey is blocking the historic attempt by the two Nordic countries to join NATO due to the arms ban and their support for the terror group.

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