Türkiye stresses that the PKK and its Syrian wing, the YPG, are the same terrorist groups and calls on countries, especially the United States, to cut all support for the terrorists, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday.
“Operation Claw-Sword, launched on Nov. 19 in the northern areas of Iraq and Syria, has been the largest, most comprehensive and most effective air operation against the terrorist organization in the recent period,” Hulusi Akar said during his address in Parliament in the capital Ankara.
Akar said that the operation only targeted the terrorists, adding, “With the operation, the dens of terrorists were destroyed and a great blow was dealt to the traitors who targeted the security of our country and nation.”
“For us, there is no ethnic, religious or sectarian discrimination between terrorism and terrorists. Our only target are terrorists. Where the terrorist is, that is where our target is,” he stressed.
Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword early Sunday, a cross-border aerial campaign against the terrorist group PKK and its Syrian branch YPG, which has illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil.
Türkiye’s air operation followed last Sunday’s terrorist attack on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Street that killed at least six people and left 81 injured.
The Defense Ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
A child and a teacher were killed and six people were wounded when mortar bombs hit a border area in Türkiye’s Gaziantep province on Monday. Ankara’s armed forces responded with jets again hitting targets in Syria.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Türkiye and the European Union, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara.
The U.S. primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Türkiye strongly opposed the YPG’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.’ support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Türkiye and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to YPG terrorists, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Türkiye conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
Still, the U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “We have urged Turkey against such operations, just as we have urged our Syrian partners against attacks or escalation,” describing YPG terrorists once again as “partners.”
Some “36,854 terrorists have been eliminated so far in the north of Iraq, Syria and within Türkiye since July 24, 2015, while 3,585 terrorists have been eliminated since the beginning of this year,” Akar pointed out.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday signaled a ground operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding that Türkiye will not remain silent against terrorism.
“This is not limited to just an air operation,” Erdoğan stressed, adding that the relevant units will do their consultations and take steps accordingly.
1 million Syrians returned
Over 1 million Syrians returned to their country in a “safe and voluntary” manner, Akar said further, indicating that 560,000 were repatriated to Idlib.
When the Syrian civil war began, Türkiye opened its doors to those who had to flee the country to save their lives and now hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Ankara also spearheads humanitarian aid efforts for Syrians in opposition-controlled parts of northern Syria and in Türkiye while making large investments for Syrians in Türkiye in social cohesion policies to help them integrate into society smoothly.
Since launching several operations in northern Syria to fight terrorism, Türkiye also rolled up its sleeves to reconstruct hospitals, schools, mosques and roads destroyed by the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization, the YPG.
Within the scope of improving the region’s social infrastructure, people were provided food and clothing by several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) while roads and buildings were rebuilt. These efforts paid off as hundreds of displaced Syrians started to return to the liberated areas.
In line with its goal to rejuvenate the region, Türkiye is also building briquette houses for Syrians in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last opposition bastion.