By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's defense minister discussed the country's counter-terrorism Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria with his French counterpart on Thursday.
According to a press release by the Turkish National Defense Ministry, Hulusi Akar told Florence Parly in a phone call that the goal of the operation was to eliminate existing terrorist groups in the region, especially Daesh and the PKK/PYD-YPG east of the Euphrates River to establish a peace corridor to ensure Syrians living in Turkey can return to their homeland.
Akar told Parly that Turkey is "the only NATO and coalition member country that is giving a chest-to-chest fight with Daesh, and neutralized more than 3,000 Daesh terrorists," the statement said.
Akar also informed his counterpart about Turkey's sensitivity on targeting only terrorists, their shelters, positions, weapons, tools and equipment during the execution of the operation.
"We attach great importance not only to the security of our country and nation, but also to the security of religious and ethnic groups living in the region," he said.
The utmost attention and sensitivity are being shown to prevent damage to civilians and innocent people as well as historical, cultural and religious structures, infrastructure facilities and elements of friendly and allied countries in the region, Akar added.
Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, to secure its borders and Syria’s territorial integrity, by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees.
Turkey has said 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.
Ankara has also stressed that supporting terrorists, under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.
Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-miles) border with Syria and it has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Turkey plans to resettle two million Syrians in a 30-km-wide (19-miles) proposed safe zone in Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD, and YPG risk its formation.
Ankara has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch -- to eradicate threats from the Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK.
The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity. During Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish forces neutralized 3,060 Daesh terrorists.
Turkey has suffered greatly from Daesh attacks inside the country.
More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings and armed attacks in recent years.
In its more than 30-year terror of 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.