UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH PRESIDENT
By Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) - Just seven days after it began, Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation has cleared a vast area of northern Syria from terrorist oppression, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“As of this morning [Tuesday], we have liberated an area of around 1,000 square kilometers from the occupation of the separatist terror group,” Erdogan told the 7th Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) in Azerbaijan's capital Baku.
“Terror groups are the biggest source of threat to peace, tranquility, and stability in our region,” Erdogan said.
Developments in war-torn Syria over the last eight years of civil war have shown that a terror group cannot be eliminated using another one, he added, referring to the U.S.’ longtime support for YPG/PKK terrorists to fight Daesh terrorists, support which ended earlier this month.
Turkey “took a very important step to eliminate the PKK/YPG terror group on Oct. 9,” the day it launched Operation Peace Spring, he said.
He said with the operation, Turkey aims to clear northern Syria of terrorists stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi-Turkish border and to provide voluntary resettlement of around 3 million Syrians to their home.
Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
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 deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Erdogan added that just as in the Syrian areas of Afrin, Jarabulus, and Azaz -- all liberated by previous Turkish anti-terror operations since 2016 -- Turkey will also provide stability in northern Syria by building infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and other projects with international support.
-Upper Karabakh issue
“We see that the role of structures such as the Turkic Council in global policy is growing,” Erdogan said, noting the importance the council attaches to its cooperation and coordination with multilateral platforms.
Erdogan also urged members of the Turkic council -- founded 10 years ago by the Nakhchivan Agreement -- to mutually lift customs quotas to boost trade and cooperation.
On the Upper Karabakh conflict, Erdogan said Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani lands has forcibly displaced around a million people.
“This is an unacceptable situation,” he said.
“We will continue to make efforts to solve the Upper Karabakh issue as soon as possible with peaceful means and on the basis of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” he noted.
Upper Karabakh is internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia through military aggression since 1991.
The Armenian occupation of the historical Azerbaijani lands led Turkey -- which sides with Baku in the conflict -- to close its frontier with Armenia.
In addition to Erdogan, the Tuesday summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) featured the attendance of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Kazakhstan's founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Purli Agamuradov attended as observers.
Following the summit, the leaders issued a summit declaration.
*Enes Kaplan in Baku contributed to this report