‘Turkey’s op in N Syria to move different phase soon’

Turkey's counter-terrorism offensives will move forward to a different phase in northern Syria soon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

We'II move the process which we started with the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations forward to a different phase very soon, Erdogan told the 11th Ambassadors' Conference in the capital Ankara referring to Turkey's planned military operation in northern Syria.

"If needed, Turkey will absolutely protect its national interests [in Syria] either via dialogue, soft power, coercive diplomacy instruments or realpolitik," he stressed.

Erdogan said Turkey's military operation in Syria would not only resolve the irregular migrant issue, but also accelerate the return of homesick Syrians to their country.

"We expect clear steps from the U.S. over extradition of the FETO ringleader to Turkey and halting the arming of the PKK/YPG terror groups," he added.

Turkey expects the creation of a 20-mile (32-kilometer) safe zone in northern Syria and has stressed that it wants the YPG/PYD terror group cleared in the region.

YPG/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of terror group PKK, which has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including many children, women and infants, for more than 30 years.

Ankara and Washington have yet to hammer an agreement on the safe zone.

FETO and its U.S. based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the failed coup attempt of 2016 that left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

The president went on to say that Turkey is determined to tear off PKK from the Iraqi territory as well.

Turkey's EU membership, S-400s

Erdogan also commented on Turkey's EU membership and said Turkey still wants to avail "full membership".

"If the European Union wants to be a global actor, they first need to win Turkey. Turkey's membership should not be sacrificed for the ambitions of a few countries. We, despite everything, try to continue our half-century full membership struggle with a positive agenda," Erdogan said.

Erdogan went on to say that the country's procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense system was a commercial rather than a strategic move.

He criticized the U.S. and EU for their biased attitude as they did not adopt a hardline in response to other NATO members who had previously bought the S-300 system.

The president said there was no concrete evidence suggesting that the S-400 missiles would put the F-35 fighter jet program in danger.

Since 2017, Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over Turkey's decision to buy the S-400, a Russian-made missile defense system, and U.S. threats to break its contract to sell Turkey F-35 fighter jets over the dispute.

U.S. officials have recently asked Turkey not to activate the Russian missiles, in exchange of free trade talks.

Strong ties with Russia

Turkey and Russia enjoy close ties in a variety of fields such as trade, energy, tourism and defense industry, according to Erdogan.

He said TurkStream project, which will enable the transfer of Russian gas to European countries through Turkey, will be completed by the end of 2019 and Akkuyu Nuclear Plant, being built in Turkey with Russian assistance, was making progress.

Erdogan said concrete results were obtained in Astana talks, paving the way for permanent peace in Syria, and the Sochi deal prevented a great humanitarian tragedy from unfolding in northwestern Syria's Idlib de-escalation zone.

The president went on to say that the trouble in Palestine was a never-healing wound galvanized by unilateral actions which jeopardize the two-state solution.

Establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as capital is not a preference but obligation.

"As Turkey, we will continue to defend justice and righteousness in the Palestine issue until the very end. We will not abandon our first Kiblah, our beloved Jerusalem to the mercy of occupants," he asserted.

Source: Anadolu Agency