ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER
By Erdogan Cagatay Zontur
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey does not plan to cross the 30-kilometer (19-mile) mark in Operation Peace Spring in Syria, the country’s foreign minister said Thursday.
Speaking to CNN’s Turkish Television Channel, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "The purpose of the operation is to remove terrorists from this area. The range of rockets coming to Akcakale [a district of Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province] from Nusaybin [in Syria] is about 30 kilometers."
Responding to a question, Cavusoglu said the threat disappears beyond 30 kilometers south, and Turkey does not plan to go beyond the 30-km mark.
Turkey plans to widen the safe zone, not limiting it to 120 km (74 miles), he said.
"The whole border [between Turkey and Syria] must be made a safe zone," he added.
Cavusoglu also said the terrorist YPG in Syria holds Daesh terrorists as a weapon, adding "The YPG fought against Daesh to expand its area in the region and to divide Syria."
He reiterated that Turkey is taking responsibility for Daesh terrorists and their families.
"French President [Emmanuel] Macron wants to divide Syria," Cavusoglu said, adding France does not hide its intention.
France already gave support to the referendum which suggests to divide Iraq, he added.
Turkey’s newly launched anti-terror operation in northern Syria liberated 11 villages of Tal Abyad town and Ras al-Ayn city from terrorists Thursday.
The villages of al-Yabisah and Tal Fandar were the first ones cleared of terrorists as part of Operation Peace Spring launched Wednesday east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Later, the villages of Musheirifa, Dadat, Bir Ashiq and Hamidiyah in Tal Abyad and Kishto in Ras al-Ayn were also cleared of terrorists.
The villages of Lower Kishto west of Ras al-Ayn, Barzan, Al Jadedah and Gisas were also rid of terrorists.
Syrian National Army (SNA) forces are taking security precautions in villages located west of Tal Abyad.
The SNA entered territory east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria on Thursday to support Turkey's Operation Peace Spring.
SNA forces -- comprised of various opposition groups fighting against Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime -- entered the areas occupied by the YPG/PKK terrorists as part of Turkey’s fresh anti-terror operation.
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.
Ankara 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.