Turkish foreign minister reaffirms Ankara's commitment to cross-border anti-terror operations

In news briefing, Hakan Fidan talks about various foreign policy issues, including situation in Syria, Israel's attacks on Gaza, Abraham Accords

Sumeyye Dilara Dincer, Busranur Koca, Gokhan Celiker and Tugba Altun  | 18.10.2023 - Update : 18.10.2023
Turkish foreign minister reaffirms Ankara's commitment to cross-border anti-terror operations


Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan reaffirmed Ankara's commitment to combating terrorism, emphasizing the country's cross-border anti-terror operations in northern Syria and Iraq.

Addressing reporters at the Foreign Ministry in the capital Ankara, Hakan Fidan said: "The message we have delivered in these operations is clear. That is, if the terrorist organization carries out an action in Türkiye, from now on, it will not receive its response in the caves of Iraq. Their every action is directly addressed.”

Türkiye has recently been carrying out airstrikes in northern Syria and northern Iraq to eliminate terrorist attacks on the Turkish people and security forces by "neutralizing" PKK/YPG and other terrorist elements to ensure border security based on its right to self-defense arising from Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The airstrikes followed a foiled terror attack in Türkiye's capital Ankara earlier this month.

On Oct. 1, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Interior Ministry building, while another terrorist was killed by security forces at the entrance gate. Two police officers suffered minor injuries in the attack. The Turkish Interior Ministry confirmed the attackers' ties to the PKK/YPG terrorist group.

When asked about the current situation in Syria and the recent tensions with the US following the downing of a Turkish drone in Syria, Fidan affirmed Ankara's ongoing focus on addressing terrorist organizations and their structures in Syria.

"Our focus on terrorist organizations and their structures in Syria remains unwavering," he said.

Responding to allegations that Türkiye's operations in the region negatively impact the fight against Daesh (ISIS), Fidan said: "In that region, we do not hesitate to destroy the organizational infrastructure and income sources that keep the organization alive."

Regarding the presence of the US in the region, he added when the US withdraws, there will be no place for the terror organization there. "Because the local population, Arabs, Syrians, are also uncomfortable with them. The only excuse for those who support them is the fight against ISIS," he said.

"We tell the Americans that we have no problem with you in Syrian territory. However, we will not refrain from targeting the organization nestled there. This is the instruction our president gave to our armed forces, security organizations and intelligence," he added.

The foreign minister stressed the importance of unwavering action in the region, asserting that Türkiye has clear red lines that cannot be altered by sanctions.

Fidan reminded NATO allies, particularly the US, that the organization poses an armed terrorist threat to Ankara and called for their support, reaffirming the country's commitment to countering terrorism even in the face of regional differences.

Fidan commented on Sweden's potential NATO membership, noting the US' close monitoring and investment in the matter, with Finland's membership having already been secured.

Regarding the Customs Union and the European Union (EU), Fidan described the Customs Union as a technical issue that could make progress if the EU refrains from politicizing it.

Abraham Accords and their impact on Middle East

In response to a question regarding the changing dynamics in the Middle East due to the Abraham Accords, which saw Gulf countries normalizing relations with Israel, Fidan pointed out that these developments revolved around Israel's efforts to strengthen its ties with Arab nations and, in doing so, downplay the significance of the Palestinian issue.

This approach only served to defer a resolution of the Palestinian conflict and move further away from peace, emphasizing the importance of fostering substantive discussions, meaningful communication, and robust engagement on relevant platforms, he said.

Fidan stressed the necessity of involving various regional players, especially in the Islamic world, while considering their distinct national interests and concerns.

Evacuation in Gaza

Israel is prepared to facilitate the departure of foreigners from Gaza as part of its strategy to create a more favorable environment for military operations, he said, adding this approach stems from the belief that Israel does not consider the loss of Palestinian lives a significant concern.

Consequently, Israeli authorities aim to encourage the evacuation of all civilians, especially foreigners, to render the entire region an open military target, he said.

However, Egypt, which holds a rational perspective on the matter, emphasizes the necessity of providing them access to deliver humanitarian aid to the region before any evacuation discussions can take place, aiming to address the basic needs of the local population before engaging in talks about foreign evacuations, he said.

About the presence of a US aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean, Fidan said this is not a new situation and that they may have tactical and strategic purposes.

He indicated that the presence of the aircraft carrier could serve as a deterrent if a party other than Hamas gets involved in a conflict.

Additionally, Fidan commented on the changing political landscape, where it appears that the US is inclined to support the idea of Hamas no longer being considered a party in Palestine, possibly due to pressure from Israel.

Israel's internal divide on its approach to Iran

Fidan highlighted a growing internal divide in Israel regarding its approach to Iran, saying some in Israel lean toward an emotional and vengeful military approach, while others emphasize rationality.

Israel perceives its current situation as its most significant crisis since 1973, and the country is leaning towards a more aggressive stance. However, there remains a slim possibility of peace amid this crisis, he said.

Some Israeli circles suggest a stepwise approach starting with Gaza before potentially engaging with Hezbollah and Iran. These circles believe that US support is assured in case of war with Iran, though the US prefers caution to prevent further escalation, he said.

Türkiye is advising its allies, including the US, about the need for prudent actions.

Possible visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Türkiye

Fidan revealed that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a desire to visit Türkiye despite not having done so yet. Blinken's schedule did not align with the initially proposed date, as Fidan had a prior commitment to visit Egypt on the same date.

He emphasized continuous communication and ongoing efforts to determine a suitable date for Blinken's visit.

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