By Zehra Nur Duz and Erdogan Cagatay Zontur
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey wants the formation of a safe zone east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to eliminate terrorist threats and to solve refugee issues, according to an expert.
"Turkey aims to eliminate the presence of PKK/PYD terrorists in the east of the Euphrates and to ensure the return and resettlement of refugees by turning the region into a peace zone," Nursin Atesoglu Guney, a member of Turkey's Presidential Security and Foreign Policy Council, told reporters at a panel discussion Monday in the Turkish capital.
"The target of Turkey is to prevent the region from turning into a war zone again where terrorism exists in the event of instability that would arise with a possible collapse of Syria," she added.
Guney said a peace corridor in the region will "set back [the] terrorist threat" along Turkey's borders with Syria and Iraq.
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns, including clearing the zone off the terrorist YPG/PKK, a group the U.S. has sometimes been allied with, over Turkey’s objections.
"The agreement made on Aug. 7 is not to solve the [terrorism] threat, but somehow to postpone it," Guney said.
She stressed that Turkey has been supplying military forces and ammunition on the border for about a year and reiterated that it will take action if the threat to its national security becomes "intolerable".
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that Turkey would go on its own if the establishment of a safe zone east of the Euphrates in northern Syria does not start by the end of September.
Erdogan said Turkey and the U.S. are discussing a safe zone in northern Syria but with every step taken it is seen that what Turkey wants does not match with what is in the mind of the U.S.
While Turkey aims to completely eliminate the terror group nesting in northern Syria, the U.S. counts on dealing with Turkey and the terrorists on the same ground, Erdogan said.
"It seems Turkey's ally is after a safe zone in northern Syria not for Turkey but for the terrorist group. We reject such an approach," he said.
- Operation in Syria not occupation but self-defense
Turkey cannot accept the presence of PKK/PYD terrorists in Syrian border, Mesut Hakki Casin, a law professor at Istanbul’s Yeditepe University told Anadolu Agency.
"There is political support behind the Turkish army. Turkey will eventually start a military operation," Casin said.
"Turkey uses its right to self-defense according to Article 51 [of the UN Charter] and a possible operation would not be an occupation but a self-defense operation", he said.
Casin said a possible operation would be a humanitarian one and must actually be carried out by the UN.
"The only option here is to eliminate terrorist organizations in the region, although it is a long and hard way," he added.
Turkey and the U.S. military personnel completed Sunday the first joint ground patrol for the establishment of a safe zone east of the Euphrates.
The patrol was backed by unmanned air vehicles and helicopters.
The YPG 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.