UPDATE - Turkey celebrates Istanbul conquest anniversary

UPDATE - Turkey celebrates Istanbul conquest anniversary

Erdogan: 'Nobody is strong enough to separate us from the lands we claimed after the 1453 conquest'


ISTANBUL (AA) - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday described the Syrian regime, the terrorist group Daesh, and the terrorist PKK-linked PYD as a trio which "constantly supports and paves the way for one other".

Speaking at a celebration of the 563rd anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul, Erdogan said the two groups and the Syrian regime co-exist and "cannot survive without one another".

"Unfortunately, the countries we see as allies overlook this dirty game, [and] even support it," Erdogan said. "Those who use Daesh and drench Syria in blood, and likewise those who use the PYD and try to surround our southern borders, have one goal in common: namely, to sever all of Turkey's ties with the Middle East and North Africa."

The PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.

"Nobody is strong enough to separate us from our lands, from the region of Thrace, or from the Mediterranean, which we claimed after the conquest in 1453," the president added.

Without mentioning it by name, Erdogan said that the PKK terrorist group "does not care about the region or Kurdish citizens".

"They want to avenge the conquest of Istanbul, but they got buried in those holes they dug," he said, alluding to the trench barriers dug around several southeastern Turkish cities last year.

The president also said the presence of Russia and Iran in Syria should be questioned.

"If you aim to fight the terrorist group Daesh, killing innocent Syrians and torturing them is not the way to do so," Erdogan said. "First, you should get rid of cruel [Bashar] al-Assad and his bloody regime."

Also speaking at the celebrations, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey should "once again stand up with the spirit of the 1453 conquest and be united with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

"The conquest means to rise as a nation and re-write the history. Conquering of Istanbul means to close an era and start a new one," Yildirim said.

On May 29, 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul, then called Constantinople, from where the Byzantines had ruled the Eastern Roman Empire for more than 1,000 years. The conquest transformed the city, once the heart of the Byzantine realm, into the capital of the new Ottoman Empire.

Around 1 million people attended Sunday’s celebrations after entering through 150 gates amid tight security.

A 563-strong janissary band team performed during the event, and the Turkish Air Force’s Turkish Stars aerobatics team flew past Yenikapi where the celebrations were held.

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