UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS; CHANGES HEADLINE, LEDE
By Seda Sevencan and Muhammed Boztepe
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish security forces have neutralized a total of 58 terrorists in domestic and cross-border counter-terrorism operations in the past 30 days, the National Defense Ministry announced on Sunday.
Speaking at a weekly press conference, spokeswoman Nadide Sebnem Aktop said the Turkish Armed Forces continued its operations against terror groups including PKK, YPG -- the PKK's Syrian branch -- and Daesh/ISIS, saying a total of 28 operations had been conducted.
Aktop declared Turkey's support for a recent deal in Iraq on the northern region of Sinjar between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government.
Ankara has been following developments closely after the agreement was inked on Oct. 9 to "restore public order and stability in Sinjar," Aktop added.
Iraqi security forces started to implement a deployment plan on Dec. 1 in the center of Sinjar district in an effort to enhance stability and security in the area and enable displaced locals to return to their homes.
The Sinjar deal, inked under the auspices of the UN on the status of the region, envisages clearing the region of the PKK terrorists.
The PKK terror organization managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 under the pretext of protecting the Ezidi community from Daesh/ISIS terrorists.
Some 450,000 Ezidis fled Sinjar after Daesh/ISIS took control of the region.
Turkey's operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle were launched in June to ensure the safety of the Turkish people and borders by neutralizing the threat of the PKK and other terrorist groups, which often use northern Iraq to plan cross-border attacks.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
On the conflict in Syria, Aktop said Turkey is fulfilling its responsibilities to prevent a new humanitarian tragedy in the war-torn country's northwestern province of Idlib, while not tolerating any threat to its national security.
On March 5, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin announced that they had reached a cease-fire agreement in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country, between the opposing rebels and Bashar al-Assaf regime forces.
According to UN estimates, hundreds of thousands have been killed and more than 10 million displaced in Syria, which has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
Pivoting to Azerbaijan, Aktop said that in accordance with a recent agreement between Turkey and Russia, work and coordination were ongoing for the activation of a joint center to uphold and monitor last month's cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
She reiterated Turkey's position with Baku in its dispute with Yerevan on the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, and seven adjacent regions.
When new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violated several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from the Armenian occupation.
The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10 to end fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.
The truce is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have been withdrawing in line with the agreement.
- Eastern Mediterranean
About Turkey's seismic activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean seas, Aktop said Turkish navy ships were accompanying its research vessel, the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, to guarantee its security as it continued studying the seabed in areas within the country's continental shelf.
She stressed that the Turkish Armed Forces would continue protecting the rights and interests of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, and to be the guarantor of peace and security in the island of Cyprus.
Noting that Turkey is in favor of international law and good neighborly relations in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, she said Ankara believes that disputes should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations.
In August, Turkey resumed energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal, spurning Turkey's goodwill gesture in halting the exploration.
Declaring the Greek-Egyptian deal "null and void," Turkey authorized another of its seismic research vessels, the Oruc Reis, to continue its activities in an area within Turkey's continental shelf. The ship recently returned to Turkey's southern port of Antalya
Turkey has consistently opposed Greece's efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.
Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.
Aktop added that as part of Turkey's fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a total of 20,612 personnel had been dismissed from the military since the July 15, 2016 attempted coup, with judicial and administrative procedures ongoing for 3,560 personnel.
FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated 2016 coup, in which 251 people were martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Turkey accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
*Writing by Seda Sevencan