by Füsun Aramaz,
Turkish Ambassador in Bucharest
Turkey is among the net contributors of stability in Syria. We have so far supported all multilateral efforts to give an end to the ongoing conflict and participated in all initiatives to this end. We are among the guarantor states of the Astana Process, which aims to facilitate a political solution through dialogue.
The risk factors against the restoration of stability in Syria are the separatist and radical terrorist organizations on the ground. Among these the PYD/YPG and the DAESH come to the forefront. Viable peace and lasting stability in Syria depend on the proection of territorial integrity and unity, which is only possible through the elimination of all terrorist groups and organizations.
Turkey is currently fighting a number of terrorist organizations that present risk and threat to our national security. We have given our full support to all international efforts to this end since day one. During the last two years, especially from the east of River Euphrates, we have been exposed to over a hundred cases of hostile acts by PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK which is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU and NATO.
Through tunnels dug by PYD/YPG along the bordering areas in this region, explosives and ammunition have been smuggled to Turkey to be handed over to the PKK terrorist organization.
PYD/YPG has perpetrated terrorist attacks also within Syria and against Syrians. Northwest Syria is a particular case in point. So far, more than 200 PYD/YPG attacks have been recorded according to PYD/YPG-affiliated open sources.
Within the context of growing threat and insecurity imposed by the PYD/YPG on our borders, our talks with our Allies on the establishment of a safe zone with a view to addressing our legitimate security concerns and sustaining the fight against DAESH has remained inconclusive. We could no longer tolerate the presence of an armed terrorist organization at our borders. Against this backdrop, the Turkish Armed Forces launched “Operation Peace Spring”.
An equally important aspect of the ongoing war and instability in Syria is the burden of refugees and migrants inflicted on Turkey’s shoulders alone. Turkey hosts 4 million Syrians. They fled unspeakable violence. Turkey has so far done more for the Syrian people and Syrian refugees for their safety and security than any other country. But the refugee or immigrants problem is not only Turkey’s problem. It is an international crisis. It is the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent history. Approach by most of the EU countries or Allies is limited to a mere effort to prevent the immigrants from coming into Europe, let alone sharing the burden.
Therefore, the operation aims to create conditions for the Syrian refugees and migrants them to go back to where they came from. We want to make sure they go back to their towns and villages in Syria voluntarily and safely. We aim to give a chance to as many displaced Syrians as possible, including Kurds, Arabs, Christians alike, to return to their ancestors’ land after having been subject to ethnic cleansing by PYD/YPG.
On the contrary to some allegations, Turkey does not pursue a demographic change in the east of Euphrates or any part of Syria. In fact, it was PYD-YPG that changed the demographics bv occupying Arab villages and towns, by forcing other Kurds who do not suscribe to PKK’s ideology. Some fled to Turkey, some went to somewhere else inside Syria. Currently, more than 300 thousand Syrian Kurds are taking refuge in Turkey, most of whom fled from the tyranny and crimes committed by the PYD/YPG, including forced conscription, intimidation of dissidents and recruitment of child soldiers.
Turkey is firmly committed to fighting against terrorism originating from Syria. We have a proven track record in contributing to counter-terrorism efforts in Syria.
Turkey has already conducted two major counter-terrorism operations (Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch) in northwest Syria. Having successfully concluded Operation Euphrates Shield in 2017 and Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Turkey cleared an area over 4.000 km2 from PYD/YPG and DAESH terror, allowing more than 360.000 Syrians to return to their homes in this area.
Likewise, “Peace Spring” is limited to a counter-terorism operation, which targets only terrorist elements and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment.
Operation is conducted with well-defined, clear and limited objectives. The objectives of the operation is to ensure Turkey’s border security, neutralize terrorists in the region and prevent the creation of a terror coridor across our southern border, establish a safe zone so as to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, and save Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of the PYD/YPG terrorist organization.
Turkey carries out this operation on the basis of international law, in accordance with the right to self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter and the relevant Security Council resolutions. Our relevant authorities and diplomatic missions informed timely all relevant allies and partners, including the UN Secretary General and Security Council, NATO, and the Syrian regime.
Recruiting one terrorist organization to fight against another one is neither appropriate nor sustainable. Hence, the basic approach adopted by our Allies from the very beginning was wrong. PYD/YPG cannot be the antidote to DAESH. It is a brutal, extremely bloody and a very dangerous terrorist organization that threatens the future of our region. Arming PYD/YPG to fight against DAESH can only further destabilize Syria. Notwithstanding, PYD/YPG is after its own agenda, regardless of the international community’s priorities. Therefore, they exploit any opportunity, any concession offered to them by any of our Allies, It also makes sense to keep in mind the revealing of credible evidence that in November 2017 DAESH terrorists detained by PYD/YPG were released in exchange of infiltrating into Turkey or northwest Syria in order to conduct terrorist acts.
Thus, no less significant is to underline the fact that Turkey is not fighting against the “Kurds”. That’s very clear! We are fighting against the PYD/YPG terrorism. PYD/YPG does not represent all Kurds.
A frequently voiced series of concerns by our Allies infers about implications of the Operation Peace Spring on the fight against DAESH.
Turkey is a committed member of the Global Coalition against DAESH. Turkey is the only country to put a chest-to-chest combat against DAESH with boots on the ground. Turkey has conducted numerous operations against DAESH and we have neutralized more than 4,000 DEASH terrorists on our own. We fought against DAESH in Jarablus, we arrested more than 5,000 and extradited or expelled more than 8,000 DAESH-related people, eliminated 3,000 of them in that area.
Operation Peace Spring is also a continuation of our efforts to put an end to the DAESH threat.