ADDS REMARKS FROM TURKISH INTERIOR MINISTER, CAVUSOGLU-POMPEO PHONE CALL
By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Zehra Nur Duz
ANKARA (AA) - Operation Peace Spring is being carried out in accordance with international law, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
"This operation is being carried out in accordance with international law, Article 51 of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions on the fight against terrorism,” said Mevlut Cavusoglu in Algeria, where he was on an official visit.
Cavusoglu's remarks came immediately after Turkish troops and the Syrian National Army launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists.
With the operation, the region will be cleared of terrorists, Syria’s border security and territorial integrity will be guaranteed, displaced people will be able to return safely to their homes and peace and safety will prevail in the region, he added.
"Turkey informed Syria about Operation Peace Spring through a diplomatic note sent to the regime’s consul general in Istanbul," said Cavusoglu.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also invited representatives of the UN Security Council member states to the ministry to brief the officials about the anti-terror operation.
Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal met U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Michael Satterfield, French Ambassador Charles Fries, British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, Russian Ambassador Aleksey Yerhov and Cheng Weihua, undersecretary of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Ankara, to inform about the operation.
Iran's Ambassador to Turkey Mohammad Farazmand was also informed about the operation. Cavusoglu also said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Syria, Geir Pedersen, were also informed.
"So far, our ally, the U.S., despite all our warnings, has not disconnected from this terrorist organization," said Cavusoglu, adding Turkey could not get any results from its sincere efforts on the creation of a safe zone with the U.S.
Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks over the phone Wednesday, according to diplomatic sources.
For his part, Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay said: ''Our heroic army will secure our borders with Operation Peace Spring, bring peace and stability to the east of the Euphrates and ensure Syrians return home safely.''
Turkey has no interest in occupying Syria or changing its demographics,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Wednesday in a live interview over the phone with the BBC.
Underlining Turkey’s fight against PKK and Daesh terrorists, Kalin said “the safe zone will provide an opportunity for refugees to return to their homes.”
“We will continue to help Syrians without discrimination,” he added.
Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said ''Operation Peace Spring launched by Turkey aims to ensure the stability of our region.”
"Turkey is conducting an operation with the sole aim of achieving peace. By this operation, all the people of the region shall win," he added.
"Turkey has used all means of solution and negotiation against the terror threats, but the terrorist groups formed in southern Turkey have continued their activities.
"The only purpose of the operation is to eliminate the terror threat against Turkey," he added.
Expressing support for the operation, Turkish Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said “I hope Turkish soldiers will successfully carry out this operation and establish peace and stability in the region.”
Varank also stressed that Turkish soldiers are carrying out the operation with a high sensitivity to avoiding harming civilians.
Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca underlined Wednesday that Turkish medical personnel will stand by the Turkish army during the operation.
“May Allah help our soldiers who join Operation Peace Spring, which was launched to end the terror threat along our borders, to provide a safe life for millions of people who are forced to leave their country and to bring peace and well-being to our region,” said Koca.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Wednesday in a live news broadcast that Operation Peace Spring is not a war but an internationally legitimate cross-border operation to fight against terrorism.
Operation Peace Spring is ‘well-planned’ operation of Turkey in northern Syria, Soylu said.
He reiterated that the main aim of this operation is to liquidate the terrorism that Turkey and the region encounter.
No country in the world can fight illegal migration like Turkey and no one can treat hosted migrants better, he added.
Turkey on Wednesday announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
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.
Turkey 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 and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Turkey plans to resettle two million Syrians in a 30-kilometer (19-mile) wide safe zone to be set up in Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terrorist groups such as the PKK, PYD and YPG risk its formation.
Turkey has rid an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria of 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 purge the region of the terrorist groups 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 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.
*Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu, Cagatay Zontur and Dilara Hamit contributed to this report from Ankara