Turkey’s anti-terror efforts in Syria defeated the establishment of a terror state in the war-weary country, Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday.
"This operation [Peace Spring], and these efforts in fact averted a terror state that terrorists wanted to establish,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk.
“An important step has been taken for Syrians to return their homes. What is important was to the withdrawal of terrorists. Local administrations will be established in the safe zone,” he added.
Addressing Turkey’s recent counter-terrorism push in northern Syria, Cavusoglu dubbed Operation Peace Spring “a milestone in Syria's future."
“World's two biggest powers accept legitimacy of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria,” Cavusoglu said referring to deals with the U.S. and Russia.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring Syria to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara agreed with Washington on Oct. 17 to pause its operation for 120-hours to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned safe zone.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a "historic" meeting in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi just hours before the pause was set to expire.
Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists will pull back 30 km south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will start to conduct joint patrols in the region.
“These agreements are very important for our national security, they also made history as diplomatic and political achievements,” Cavusoglu stressed.
Cavusoglu said that a safe zone will be established in the region extending from the Euphrates River in Syria to the Iraqi border under Tuesday’s Sochi agreement.
YPG/PKK terrorists will be retreated 30 kilometers [18 miles] south of Turkish border in Syria, including the eastern parts of Qamishli, and Ras al-Ayn, northern Syrian cities, as well as Ayn al-Arab (Kobani), and Cavusoglu said.
The local people, including Arabs and Kurds, will establish a local administration in the region later, he added.
Asked about joint Turkey-Russia patrols to be conducted east and west of the Operation Peace Spring area in Syria, excluding Qamishli, Cavusoglu said: “Our patrols will be carried out with a depth of 10 km (6 mi) either in the city center or suburban areas without any time limitation as long as they are needed.”
Underlining that Turkey supports Syria's border and territorial integrity more than any other country, Cavusoglu said Turkey would neutralize terrorist elements that did not withdraw yet from the region where Turkey has been carrying out an anti-terror operation.
Cavusoglu recalled that 365,000 people returned to the areas cleared of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists since Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in 2018 cleared a vast area in northwestern Syria.
Also addressing the 1998 Adana Agreement, which allows Turkish forces to conduct military operations in Syria, Cavusoglu said Turkey will take action to eradicate terrorist threats against itself if Syria fails to do so.
He added: “First of all, we have no direct contact with the Syrian regime. [But], contacts for intelligence can always be held. It’s natural.
“Secondly, the Assad regime has no capacity to implement the Adana deal even if it wishes to do. It has no authority there [in northern Syria], there is a power vacuum,” Cavusoglu said.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.