By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - The head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter on Friday to the U.S. Congress on Turkey's ongoing "Operation Peace Spring" in northern Syria.
"The objective of this operation is to ensure our border security, neutralize terrorists in the region and thus, save Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of these terrorists," said Volkan Bozkir in the letter sent to his U.S. counterpart in the House of Representatives, Eliot Engel.
Bozkir stressed that Turkey has taken all measures to prevent civilian casualties in the operation east of the Euphrates River.
He reiterated that Turkey had repeatedly emphasized: "if necessary, it would not hesitate to use its right of self-defense stemming from international law."
"Against this backdrop, the Turkish Armed Forces has launched 'Operation Peace Spring'," Bozkir noted.
"Turkey called for the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria nearly four years ago for two reasons. First, we need to control this threat along our border with Syria, just as the U.S. seeks to control its own borders. Second, we seek a safe zone for the safe and voluntary return of Syrian refugees, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Christians, who live in Turkey and elsewhere but would like to return home," he said.
Bozkir also recalled that Turkey now hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than 300,000 of these are Syrian Kurds.
"They do not wish to live under the yoke of a Marxist terrorist organization, paradoxically mirror-imaging ISIS/DAESH tactics of intimidation along our border," said Bozkir.
He added: "Turkey does not seek conflict with the Kurdish people. Kurds make up a significant portion of the Turkish population. They serve in our military, in our Parliament, they are business leaders in Turkey. In addition, Turkey has no ambition to occupy northeastern Syria. We remain committed to the territorial integrity of Syria. Turkey also has no interest in changing the demographics of the region, as some have alleged."
Besides Engel, Bozkir sent the letter to Republican committee leader Michael McCaul and Senator James Risch, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the Senate.
- Operation Peace Spring
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 PKK terrorist group 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-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Turkey plans to resettle 2 million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide 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.
Turkey 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 Operation Olive Branch -- to eradicate threats from Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.
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 European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.