UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM PRESIDENT ERDOGAN
By Gozde Bayar
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday if the U.S. does not keep its promises after 120 hours, Turkey will resolutely continue its operation in northern Syria.
The safe zone issue will be solved if the U.S. keeps its promises until the end of 120-hour period on Tuesday night, Erdogan told reporters at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.
Turkish security forces will not withdraw from northern Syria, he stressed.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in the Russian coastal city of Sochi, as part of the Turkish president’s one-day visit on Oct. 22, to discuss different aspects of the Syrian crisis.
The Turkish president considered his meeting with Putin another aspect of the process.
“We are planning to resettle 1-2 million Syrian refugees in safe zone,” Erdogan added.
Referring to the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, he said it contained nearly 350,000 Kurdish people, who fled during YPG/PKK’s occupation of their hometowns.
“I hope Syrian Constitutional Committee which is set to gather in Geneva on Oct. 30, will be a milestone for political solution in Syria,” he stressed.
Turkey and the U.S. came to an agreement on Thursday to pause Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
Turkey agreed to pause its Operation Peace Spring for 120 hours in order to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone.
In talks on Thursday, Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also agreed on Turkey having 20 miles (32 miles) of safe zone south of the Turkish border in Syria.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, over 5 million civilians have become refugees. Turkey hosts 3.6 million of them, the most any country does in the world.
- 4 Turkish soldiers martyred
Erdogan said that a total of four Turkish soldiers and 74 Syrian National Army members were martyred during the Operation Peace Spring.
He added that Turkish security forces neutralized nearly 750 YPG/PKK terrorists so far within the scope of the operation.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.
Erdogan said Turkey has carried out the most effective and result-oriented fight against Daesh elements in Syria.
He also said that Turkey has liberated a total of 65 settlements in northern Syria including Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn districts.
“When the operation reached the depth of 30 kilometers (19 miles) from few points in a short time, the attitudes of some countries especially the U.S. and Europe changed, he added.
He said his country had been preparing for the precise operation for the past three to five years.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 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 YPG/PKK.
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.