UPDATE WITH MORE REMARKS OF TURKISH VICE PRESIDENT
By Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - With the Operation Peace Spring, Turkey aimed to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria, Turkish vice president said on Monday.
"More than 4,000 square-kilometer [1,544-mile] area has been cleared from the terrorists [in the northern Syria]," Fuat Oktay told the lawmakers during his 2020 budget speech in the Turkish parliament.
With the Operation Peace Spring, Turkey also aimed to reduce its security concerns, Oktay noted.
He added that Turkey also aimed to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria with the operation.
"Turkey's fight against terrorism in the Operation Peace Spring region will continue until the terror in the area is completely removed," Oktay said.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Under two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from a planned Syrian safe zone.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The terrorist YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
Oktay reminded that Turkey's drilling vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, have continued their drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"We will continue to follow an active strategy in oil and natural gas explorations while drilling five more wells with our national vessels [in the Eastern Mediterranean]," Oktay said.
He added: "Turkey will not make any concessions for its rights neither in Cyprus nor in the Aegean or in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Oktay stressed that the UN, EU and NATO have not fulfilled their responsibilities for Turkey, while Turkey has been affected from uncertainties in the region.
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with two drilling vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, along with Oruc Reis and Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa seismic vessels in the same region.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
The island has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece.
Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power in 1974 had stopped years-long persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
The TRNC was founded in 1983.