Türkiye’s counterterrorism efforts are, in fact, a guarantee for Syria’s unity and territorial integrity, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, indicating that, however, Bashar al-Assad’s regime don’t recognize it.
“As you know, there are a lot of terrorist organizations there. We will not allow these terrorist organizations to pose a threat to our national security,” Erdoğan told reporters on the presidential plane after his Balkan tour.
He repeated that Türkiye could launch a new anti-terrorist operation “all of a sudden”.
Türkiye backed opposition groups fighting to overthrow the Assad regime and sever diplomatic ties with Damascus at the start of the 11-year conflict.
But the Russian intervention helped the Assad regime push the opposition back into a pocket of northwestern Syria. Erdoğan said that after talks in Russia earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin suggested that Turkey should cooperate with the Syrian regime to curb violence along their common border.
Erdoğan warned that Türkiye could launch another military operation in northern Syria targeting the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group, the YPG, to expand a “safe zone” where Ankara says some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees she currently hosts could return.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last month that he had a brief meeting with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in October in Serbia’s capital Belgrade.
The short meeting marks the first time the top Turkish diplomat has interacted with a Syrian official, as Türkiye has backed moderate opposition groups against Bashar Assad’s regime since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.