By Dilara Hamit
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s current operation in northern Syria is not against Kurds, but against terrorist groups, Turkey’s president told an anti-terror conference in Istanbul on Friday.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s anti-terror operations in northern Iraq and Syria -- including Operation Peace Spring, launched this Wednesday, and Operation Claw in northern Iraq, launched this summer -- never target countries' territorial integrity or sovereignty.
"Turkey will ensure its border security and the safe return of Syrians by clearing terrorist groups from east of the Euphrates River as we did with west of the Euphrates," said Erdogan, referring to previous anti-terror operations since 2016.
He added that Operation Peace Spring means to protect rights of all the people of northern Syria -- Arabs, Kurds, Ezidis, Chaldeans -- not to divide Syria.
Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorists there and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to eliminate from the region terrorist elements of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch -- to purge the region of the terrorist groups Daesh and the PYD/YPG.
On May 27, Ankara launched Operation Claw against the PKK in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq, followed by the operation's second and third phases in July and late August.
The operation will continue until northern Iraq is cleared of PKK terrorists for the safety of both countries, said Turkey’s National Security Council last month.