ADDS MORE REMARKS
By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey launched a ground offensive Wednesday as part of Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, according to the Defense Ministry.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River earlier in the day to secure its borders by eliminating terror elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Turkish troops along with the Syrian National Army began the military operation at 4 p.m. local time (1300GMT) against Daesh and PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG terrorists under the instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"As was done in Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, only terrorists, their shelters, positions, weapons, tools and equipment are targeted in the planning and implementation of the operation while all kinds of attention and sensitivity are being shown to prevent damage to civilians/innocent people and historical, cultural and religious structures, infrastructure facilities and elements of friendly and allied countries in the region," the ministry said earlier.
Additionally, Turkey attaches great importance not only to its national security but also to the security of religious and ethnic groups in the region, Akar said late Wednesday in a statement.
Turkish troops also stand with their Syrian brothers east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria and are against terrorist organizations, he added.
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 2 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 terror 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.