By Dilara Hamit
ANKARA (AA) - A total of 109 terrorists have been neutralized so far since Turkey started Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
Turkey's aim is to make sure that everybody can go home again after the Operation Peace Spring clears northern Syria from terrorists, Erdogan told a meeting with provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital Ankara.
"We will not accept anyone being harmed by Operation Peace Spring, especially civilians," said the Turkish president.
On Wednesday, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees as well as Syria’s territorial integrity.
“We are hosting 300,000 Kurds from Kobani, Syria,” said Erdogan, rebuffing claims that Turkish is anti-Kurdish.
"Our doors are open to all who will leave the PYD ranks and act to protect their homes, villages, cities, and their own honor, whether Arab, Kurdish or any other," Erdogan said.
The president highlighted that Turkey neutralized 16,000 terrorists -- 7,500 terrorists within Turkey, and 8,500 outside its borders over the last four years.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch -- to purge the region of the terrorist groups Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
The terrorist group PKK and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure, Turkish leaders have said.