By: Ali Noyan COŞKUN
Syria is the southern neighbor of Turkey and the two countries share a 911 kilometre-long border. Turkey has suffered deeply from the attacks perpetrated by the terrorist organizations in Syria. Turkey is firmly committed to fighting against terrorism and has a proven track record in contributing to counter-terrorism efforts in Syria. We have already conducted two major counter-terrorism operations, namely Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, in northwest Syria. Turkey is also a committed member of the Global Coalition against DEASH and it is the only country to put chest-to-chest combat against that terrorist organization with boots on the ground.
However, the threat of terrorism originating from Syria and targeting our borders is not limited to DEASH. During the last two years, especially from the east of River Euphrates, Turkey has been exposed to more than 200 hundred cases of attacks or hostile acts by PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK which is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU and NATO. PYD/YPG has perpetrated terrorist attacks also within Syria and against Syrians. Turkey has never accepted a corridor run by a terrorist group along its border. We have repeatedly proposed establishing a safe zone along our border, including at the United Nations General Assembly. Turkey could no longer tolerate the presence of terrorists at its borders and is compelled to launch the “Operation Peace Spring”.
The aim of the Operation Peace Spring is to ensure Turkey’s national security by removing the danger posed by terrorists along its borders and save Syrians from the tyranny and cruelty of these terrorists. The operation is being carried out on the basis of international law, in accordance with the right of self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter and the relevant Security Council resolutions. Before proceeding with this operation, We have taken all steps to minimize risk to civilians and prevent a humanitarian crisis. Similar to the Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, only terrorist elements and their hideouts, weapons, equipment and vehicles are targeted during the execution of the operation. Turkey is planning to continue the operation until its border security has been ensured and local Syrians have been liberated from the tyranny of PYD/YPG as well as the DEASH threat.
The operation also aims to facilitate safe and voluntary returns of displaced Syrians. A safe zone free from terror will encourage these Syrians, including more than 300 thousand Syrian Kurds driven from their homes and taken refuge in Turkey, to voluntarily return to their homes. Turkey has best practices in terms of liberating areas from terrorism and facilitating safe and voluntary returns of Syrians. In northwest Syria, more than 360 thousand Syrians returned from Turkey to their homes in areas cleared of terrorists by Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch.
The US and other allies who have a military presence in the region were informed of the Operation Peace Spring in a timely manner. We also took immediate steps to inform the international community on the background, legal basis and goals of this operation. President Erdoğan had informed President Trump about our intention. President Erdoğan also called President Putin before the start of the operation. Additionally, UN Secretary General, President of the UN Security Council and NATO Secretary General were notified of the start of this operation. Turkey also informed the Ambassadors representing permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as regional countries and delivered a verbal note to the Syrian Consulate General in İstanbul. It has been made clear that this was limited to a counter-terrorism operation and we reiterated our commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity and unity. Furthermore, the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian Interim Government, as well as tribal leaders, have expressed their support for the Operation Peace Spring.
Turkey does not have any plans to change the demographic structure in the Operation Peace Spring area. On the contrary, the Operation Peace Spring will give an opportunity to at least one million displaced Syrians, including Kurds, Arabs, Christians, who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing by PYD/YPG to return to their homelands. Our counter-terrorism efforts in Syria will contribute to the territorial integrity and unity of Syria by disrupting separatist agendas.
On the other hand, the future of detained DEASH terrorists in Syria is of paramount importance for Turkey. We believe the sustainable solution regarding the DEASH terrorists detained in Syria is the repatriation of all foreign terrorists by their countries of origin. The issue of foreign terrorists can be effectively dealt with only by collective action by the international community. Turkey has always been at the forefront of the efforts to combat DEASH and will remain so.
Ali Noyan COŞKUN is Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Hargeisa