By Nilay Kar Onum
Turkey is working with Russia on how a disarmament zone inside Idlib, Syria will be set up and how terror groups will be driven out, a Turkish presidential aide said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters in the capital Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), and special forces are working in coordination with Russia in the field.
His remarks came after Monday's landmark agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a disarmament zone of 15-20 kilometers (9.3-12.4 miles) in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold, following a meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Under the pact, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will do joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.
Kalin also said Turkey will continue taking necessary steps on reinforcing the 12 observation points in Idlib.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.
In regards to Manbij roadmap in Syria, Kalin said Turkey expects the roadmap with the U.S. to be implemented as planned, without delays.
“The Manbij roadmap is an important deal. We are loyal to it and will do what is necessary.”
“But, simultaneously, the U.S. administration continuing to engage with the YPG and PYD is a source of serious concern to us,” he added.
Turkish Armed Forces will soon start joint training and patrolling activities with the U.S. in Manbij, the presidential aide noted.
The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated YPG terrorist group from the city in order to stabilize the region.
Washington has claimed the YPG is a “reliable ally” in the fight against Daesh, while Ankara has pointed to its status as an offshoot of the PKK, a recognized terrorist group which has taken some 40,000 lives in Turkey.
Fight against terrorism
The presidential aide expressed Turkey’s dedicated stance against terror groups operating both in Turkey and abroad.
“Operations being carried out by MIT (National Intelligence Organization) and related security institutions against terror groups abroad will continue with determination,” he said.
Kalin added, “Those, who commit crimes against Turkey will definitely be brought to justice.”
The presidential aide also voiced Turkey’s dedication to root the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt out of the country.
“The Republic of Turkey will never allow FETO [terrorists] to breath comfortably. Everybody should know this,” he added.
According to the Turkish government, FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses the terror group of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.