By Sarp Ozer
BRUSSELS (AA) – Turkey’s Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said Turkish forces have neutralized over 500 PKK terrorists in northern Iraq in 2018.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) in Defense Ministers' session on Friday, Canikli said: “Since the beginning of the new year, more than 500 terrorists have been neutralized in operations in northern Iraq.”
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
His comments came amid reports that Ankara could take control of Mt. Qandil, the main base of PKK terror group in northern Iraq, in the coming days.
“We are doing what is necessary to totally eradicate [terrorism], and we will do it till the end," he added referring Turkey's ongoing fight against terrorism.
He said Turkey continues to be affected by terror threats coming from northern Iraq.
Airstrikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq have been carried out regularly since July 2015, when the PKK resumed its decades-long armed campaign against Turkey.
The three-decades long terror campaign of PKK, a listed terrorist group by Turkey, EU and the U.S., has killed over 40,000 people, including women and children.
Mentioning his meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Brussels on the sidelines of NAC session, Canikli said they had a detailed, constructive and positive discussion regarding the roadmap on Manbij.
“In the current situation, our thesis that PYD/YPG is an element of PKK terrorist organization and is controlling the SDF is largely accepted [by the U.S.],” he added.
Canikli also said Turkish and American forces would patrol Manbij together after the terror groups withdrawal from the area according to a deal between Ankara and Washington.
On Monday, a Manbij roadmap was announced after a meeting in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated PYD/YPG terror group from the northern Syrian city and on stability in the region.
About the delivery of S-400 air defense systems from Russia and F-35 fighter jets from the U.S., Canikli said: “The S-400 system that will be installed in Turkey, and F-35 jets, will not disturb any NATO element and will not pose a threat or risk for them.”
He added that linking the purchasing of Russian air defense systems and the U.S. fifth generation fighter jets was not right.
“Because F-35 project is a trade agreement. It is a U.S.-led project that is developed together with many NATO countries.
“Turkey has delivered all of its commitments in time regarding the project,” he added.
Canikli also said that Turkey expected the delivery of S-400 and F-35 projects not to be delayed due to some other conditions.