Erdoğan says Turkey will remain in northern Syria until cleared of terrorists

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Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (L) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that NATO allies should take Turkey’s security concerns seriously, adding that Turkey would continue its military presence in northern Syria until the region is cleared of what he called terrorist threats, the Ahval news website reported.

“Allies should take our security concerns seriously, just as we take the threats to the alliance seriously,” Erdoğan said at a presser in London held a day after the NATO leaders’ summit.

The president said he had shared Turkey’s concerns both during the summit and in bilateral meetings with leaders of NATO member countries.

Erdoğan on Tuesday met with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain, amid strong criticism from the European Union following Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria launched on Oct. 9. 

The president said he had stated during the four-way meeting that Turkey would not leave the area between the northeastern Syrian towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn until peace was established, according to the Hürriyet newspaper.

Erdoğan said he had also admonished the three leaders for supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ankara plans to establish a 32-kilometer-deep safe zone in northern Syria along a 120-kilometer stretch of the border areas it cleared of the YPG and intends to resettle a portion of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Erdoğan said he, French President Emmanuelle Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had agreed to hold annual four-way summits, adding that the next meeting would be in Istanbul in February 2020.

“Unfortunately, the indifference of countries to this issue continues,” Erdoğan said when asked whether the European leaders responded to Turkey’s calls to shoulder the financial burden of resettling Syrians. “I won’t name it, but only one country said, ‘We will give you the required support’,” he said.

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