UPDATE 2 - 'Turkey will block PKK's Syrian terror corridor'

UPDATE 2 - 'Turkey will block PKK's Syrian terror corridor'

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will finish securing its borders with Syria against terrorists


By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu

ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's president said on Tuesday that it was time to counter the PKK terrorists from forming a corridor in northern Syria, along Turkey’s borders.

Speaking to his party's lawmakers on Tuesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of a possible Turkish army operation into the Afrin district of Syria's Aleppo province.

"It is time to block the separatist terror group from forming a terror corridor along Syria," said Erdogan.

"We will complete this process by securing all our borders," he added, referring to a possible Afrin operation.

Any Afrin operation would follow on Turkey's successful seven-month Operation Euphrates Shield, which ended last March.

Erdogan also praised "the firm stand" of the people of eastern Turkey during last September's illegitimate referendum held in northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government.

The illegal poll was condemned by the international community.

The PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015.

Since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children.

The PKK has also been active in Syria, through its PKK/PYD and PKK/YPG branches.

- US' Atilla case 'a new coup attempt'

Turning to the recent U.S. court conviction of Turkish banker Hakan Atilla, Erdogan reiterated that the case was another coup attempt against Turkey.

"The people who were unsuccessful in the July 15 [2016] coup attempt in our country are seeking out new coup attempts," he warned, saying the Atilla case was a "political" coup.

Last Wednesday, a New York jury found Atilla, a former deputy CEO of Turkey's public lender Halkbank, guilty on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud -- including alleged Iran sanctions violations -- but acquitted him of a money laundering charge.

Turkey has criticized the conviction as a political conspiracy lacking any real evidence and pushed by members and sympathizers of FETO, the group behind the 2016 defeated coup.

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup on July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara 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, as well as having a large network of influence and intimidation abroad.

-Opposition support for Erdogan

Erdogan also said he was pleased with remarks by Devlet Bahceli, leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), backing Erdogan’s reelection next year instead of fielding an MHP candidate.

"Ahead of the elections, we should especially stress Mr. Bahceli's national stance," said Erdogan.

With this stance, the president added that "those who want to tear this country apart will not be able to achieve their goal."

Erdogan said they would continue the partnership the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party formed with the MHP in the wake of the defeated coup attempt.

"[The presidential] elections in 2019 will be between people who are national, and those whose strings are being pulled by others," he said.

Ahead of a constitutional referendum last April, the AK Party and MHP both campaigned for approval of the sweeping package of changes.

The MHP has also worked with the AK Party on foreign policy issues, particularly since the thwarted coup.

Next year's presidential elections will be Turkey's first under the new presidential system of government.

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