When terrorists withdraw Turkey’s planned safe zone in northern Syria, the nation’s anti-terror operation in neighbor country will end automatically, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
"Our proposal is that all terrorists should lay down their arms, destroy their traps, and leave the safe zone we determined by tonight," Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group.
“When our proposal is carried out in the region, our Operation Peace Spring which only targets terrorists will end by itself,” the president said.
Erdogan said everybody with the genuine concern of not harming the people in the region will respond to his call positively.
Turkey launched the operation to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Since its launch last week, YPG/ PKK terrorists have been circulating misleading and falsified images to smear Turkey's counter-terrorism efforts in the eyes of the Turkish public.
Photos taken years ago and thousands of miles away are deliberately mislabeled as having to do with Turkey’s operation, but fact checkers at Anadolu Agency and elsewhere have exposed these smears.
Erdogan said since the operation was launched on Oct. 9, Turkey has cleared 1,220 square kilometers of terrorists.
Rejecting offers to “mediate” in the conflict, he said: "The Republic of Turkey never in its history sat down at a table with terrorist groups. We are not looking for a mediator for that."
Turkey’s utmost care for civilian safety
"Turkey has never committed any civilian massacre in its history and it never will. Our religion and culture would never allow to do it," he said.
In fact it is the history of those who accuse us of committing massacres that are full of such massacres, Erdogan said.
"If you’re looking for civilian massacres, look at Afghanistan, Myanmar's Rakhine state, Upper Karabakh, and Bosnia," where Muslims were slaughtered late in the last century and in this one, Erdogan said.
He added: "If you want to see civilian massacres, look at Cyprus before Turkey's intervention, look at Palestine just under your nose, where the Muslims are deliberately killed in the streets."
On the island of Cyprus, an attempted coup and violence against the island’s Turkish population led to Turkey’s 1974 intervention as a guarantor state, and later the foundation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkey is not fighting Syrians but the terrorist cruelty imposed on them, together with the Syrian people, said Erdogan.
In its anti-terror Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, the Turkish army is not targeting churches, even when terrorists use them as sniper nests, he added.
Erdogan expressed skepticism over reports that the Syrian regime had made an agreement with the SDF -- another name used by the terrorist YPG/PKK -- over Syria's Manbij province.
Turkey and Russia already have an agreement over Manbij, he said.
Downplaying the Manbij issue, he added: “Our most important issue is that Russia, or the regime should clear it of the [terrorist] YPG/PYD.”
Turkey wants to give back the northern Syrian territories to the millions of Syrians living in Turkey, he reiterated.
Amid Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria, the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition on Tuesday announced its withdrawal from Manbij, Syria, an area targeted by Turkey for clearing YPG/PKK terrorists.
Erdogan's remarks came ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Turkey on Thursday.
Pence will be accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and they will meet with Erdogan in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
On his planned visit to the U.S. on Nov. 13, Erdogan said, the trip will be reevaluated following meetings with the U.S. delegation visiting to Ankara.
Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
Turkey has said the PKK and the YPG/PYD constitute the gravest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.
Military-style salute of Turkish footballers
Also touching on UEFA’s Tuesday decision upon a request from France to probe Turkey after Monday’s EURO 2020 qualifiers in Istanbul and France over Turkish players gave military-style salutes in celebration of goals, Erdogan said it did not happen before.
"… [Turkish] national team have a national behavior and shared this with all audiences there [at the stadium]. There is nothing more than that.
"I don't expect anything serious to come out of here. They condemn at the utmost… There will be no negative approach towards a team that has reached this point," he said.
Erdogan also recalled the case of French star Antoine Griezmann and said UEFA did not take any action over the incident.
In July 2018, Griezmann made a military salute in front of French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow during a ceremony at the 2018 FIFA World Cup final when France beat Croatia 4-2 to be world champions. He faced no UEFA probe.