The conflict in Syria since 2011 has wrecked havoc on the Syrian people as well as has created a power vacuum in the country. The Syrian people, due to the atrocities of Assad’s regime and terrorist organisations against them, have also been subjected to a forced migration to the bordering countries, mainly to Turkey.
The Syrian offshoot of terrorist organization PKK, namely PYD/YPG as well as DEASH, tried to capitalize on the plight of the people and at the present PYD/YPG now occupies more than 30 percent of the country.
Turkey, currently hosting around 4 million displaced Syrian people, has been exposed also to terrorist attacks of PYD/YPG terrorists, claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent Turkish civilians on the Turkish side of the border.
During the last two years, especially from the east of River Euphrates, we have been exposed to more than hundred cases of attacks or hostile acts by PYD/YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the EU and NATO.
PYD/YPG has perpetrated terrorist attacks also within Syria and against Syrians. Northwest Syria is a particular case in point. More than 200 cases of attacks and killing or wounding of scores of civilians took place. PYD/YPG-affiliated elements assumed responsibility in these cases without hesitation.
Turkey is firmly committed to fighting against all sorts of terrorism originating from Syria. We have a proven track record in contributing to counter-terrorism efforts in Syria.
We are a committed member of the Global Coalition against DEASH. Turkey is the only country to put a chest-to-chest combat against DEASH with boots on the ground. We have neutralized more than 4.000 DEASH terrorists on our own. Hence, Turkey has already conducted two major counter-terrorism operations (Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch) in northwest Syria.
In view of the deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions in Syria, we observe a breeding ground for various terrorist organizations, posing a wide range of threats to the region and beyond. Turkey has spared no effort to help remedy the situation in Syria, in accordance with all the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, particularly by fighting against terrorism in all its form and manifestations.
Turkey’s national security has been under the direct and imminent threat of terrorist organizations operations in the east of Euphrates in Syria, among which DEASH and PKK/PYD/YPG come at the forefront.
It is sad to note that the conflicting interests of all the actors on the ground in Syria made a lasting and all-encompassing solution impossible. In this context, Turkey’s negotiations with the United States on establishing a safe zone free from terrorists in northeast Syria along the Turkey-Syria border to address the legitimate security concerns of Turkey was to no avail despite our efforts in good will.
In light of the exigencies and legitimate security concerns of Turkey, she launched the Operation Peace Spring on 9 October 2019, in line with the right of self-defense as outlined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, to counter the imminent terrorist threat, to ensure Turkey’s border security, to neutralize terrorists starting from along the border regions adjacent to Turkish territory and to liberate Syrians from the tyranny of PKK’s Syrian branch PKK/PYD/YPG as well as DEASH.
As has been the case in its previous counter-terrorism operations, Turkey’s response will be proportionate, measured and responsible.
The operation is targeting only terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment. All precautions are taken to avoid collateral damage to the civilian population.
Turkey is carrying out this operation in support of efforts to facilitate safe and voluntary returns of displaced Syrians to their homes of origins or other places of their choice in Syria in line with international law and in coordination with relevant UN agencies.
We intend to continue the operation until all terrorists have been wiped out of the region, our border security has been ensured, and local Syrians have been liberated from the tyranny of PYD/YPG as well as the DEASH threat.
The operation also aims to facilitate safe and voluntary returns of displaced Syrians. A safe zone free from terror will encourage these Syrians, including more than 300 thousand Syrian Kurds taking refuge in Turkey, to voluntarily return to their homes.
The Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian Interim Government as well as tribal leaders have expressed support for the operation.
Turkey’s counter-terrorism efforts in Syria will contribute to the territorial integrity and unity of Syria by disrupting separatist agendas.