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Turkey won’t seek permission to fight terror: Erdogan

‘We reserve our right to target terrorists who threaten our country from Syrian territories,’ says Turkish president

Turkey won’t seek permission to fight terror: Erdogan

By Elena Teslova, Sena Guler and Sibel Ugurlu


Turkey will not seek anybody's permission to fight terrorism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.

“We will not seek advice on how to deal with a terrorist group from anyone whose activities have been directed against our citizens for more than 30 years, or ask for permission to fight terrorism.

"We reserve the right, when the appropriate conditions will arise, to pursue terrorists who threaten our country from Syrian territory," Erdogan said in an article penned for Russian daily Kommersant.

In the article on Turkey-Russia cooperation in Syria, he stressed that Turkey had no problem with Syrian Kurds nor any other groups living inside the borders of the neighboring country.

Erdogan stated that some groups in the U.S. were insistently ignoring the fact that the terror group did not represent the Syrian Kurds, on the contrary, caused great harm to those people of Kurdish origin.

He said the evidence to it was the fact that Turkey hosts tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds who escaped from the pressure of the terrorists.

"Therefore, the accusations made in recent weeks have nothing to do with reality," he said.

Stating that the U.S. pullout from Syria was "a step in right direction", he added: “The Syrian crisis can be resolved only by those countries that benefit from the healing of Syria's wounds and be harmed by their festering."

Erdogan's article came after the U.S. President Donald Trump's tweet on Sunday where the latter said "[The U.S.] will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds," conflating “Kurds” with the terrorist PKK/YPG, a confusion that Turkey has repeatedly criticized.

Syrian civil war entering new phase

Turkish leader said the Syrian civil war -- which broke out in 2011 -- is entering a new phase in following the U.S. decision.

"In December, I held talks with U.S. President Donald Trump and informed him that Turkey in this new process is determined to take the necessary steps to restore peace and stability to the Middle East," he noted, and said: "Therefore, we would like to continue our close cooperation with the Russian Federation, as together we started the Astana peace process for Syria."

He stated that Turkey was committed to a political settlement which will preserve territorial integrity of the war-torn country, that will ensure political representation of its people and their return to the country.

"To achieve these goals, Turkey and the Russian Federation must continue their cooperation and coordination of their actions," Erdogan added.

On the Idlib agreement inked last year, he said that it was "clearest evidence that our cooperation carries great importance for the protection of the interests of both our countries, and the people of Syria."

He also mentioned that some structures in the U.S. were trying to block Washington's decision to withdraw from Syria, which should have contributed to end the Syrian crisis, and said they were also spreading statements which said "Turkey will destroy the Kurds" or "The U.S. will not abandon our Kurdish allies!"

Erdogan mentioned that their point of reference for the Syria settlement process was the field of agreement reached during the last month's telephone conversation. 

He recalled that the U.S. President Donald Trump's Syria pullout decision came after a phone call with him.

Turkish president also responded to "baseless allegations" that Turkey “targets” Kurds.

"First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Turkish Republic has no problems with the Syrian Kurds or with any groups living on the territory of our neighbor. The baseless allegations circulated from America do not reflect reality but rather the views of a number of interest groups," he noted.

"On the other side, we have always openly said and keep saying that we will not allow the presence of any elements that pose a threat to either the national security of our country or the territorial integrity," Erdogan went on to say.

U.S. entrusted the lamb to the wolf

Erdogan reiterated that the U.S. support to the PYD/YPG terrorists -- PKK terrorist organization's Syrian branch -- was a mistake that has made Syrians, who were previously living under the pressure of Daesh terrorists, to come under the control of another terrorist group.

"In other words, the U.S. entrusted the lamb to the wolf. In addition, because the policy was flawed, the first official websites that recognized the PKK's ties to the PYD were censored, and then a new fictional structure called the 'Syrian Democratic Forces' was created," he said.

He also warned that the Syrian branch of the PKK convinced some U.S. officials and tried to "create a terrorist state in northern Syria, under the pretext of fighting Daesh."

"Against this project, we retaliated by launching Operation Olive Branch in 2018 and pushing this group out of [Syria's] Afrin," Erdogan said, adding: "In the very near future, together with our friends and allies, we will take necessary steps to preserve the territorial integrity of our neighbor."

Turkey-Russia cooperation

Erdogan said they did not want to see "any devaluation" of the successful results achieved by Turkey and Russia in the Astana process, and added that they also wanted to preserve the progress made for a political solution in Syria.

"We must work together to restore Syria and ensure security and stability in that country. This is the only way to put an end to terrorism, to prevent the re-strengthening of terrorist organizations, primarily Daesh, and thus to protect Syria from external interference," he said.

Reiterating Ankara's position regarding Syria, he said eliminating instability on Turkey's southern border was only possible through cooperation with its friends and allies.

Erdogan called on for a resolute fight against Daesh and PKK's Syrian branch and said the existing regional problems could be solved forever by those whose lives "depend on the fate of the region".

"The time when politics was determined by newspaper headlines and social media campaigns has passed," he said.

Also touching the efforts to cope with the humanitarian crisis and instability in the region, he said Turkey has been the only country to announce its moves since the beginning of the civil war in Syria.

"Similarly, we have become the only country that has kept its promises," he said, adding: "From the very beginning of the crisis, Turkey has provided humanitarian assistance and stressed that there can only be a political solution to this issue.

"In this regard, we are ready to cooperate with our friends and allies. This cooperation will help in the fight against terrorism, to ensure stability and peace." 

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