Turkey has a duty to defeat ISIS, says Erdogan

ISTANBUL • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday said Turkey had a duty to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), adding that its operation inside Syria was a first step towards this goal.

Turkey has sent dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops into Syria, in an unprecedented operation dubbed Euphrates Shield aimed at booting out ISIS Islamists and Kurdish militia from the border area.

The operation, launched on Aug 24, came after a string of bloody suicide bombings and rocket attacks inside Turkey blamed on ISIS.

"It is the binding duty... of our nation to finish off the organisation called Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and ensure it is unable to carry out actions inside our country," Mr Erdogan said in a televised message for the upcoming Eid al-Adha Islamic holiday. "The Euphrates Shield operation is the first step towards this."

Six Turkish soldiers have been killed so far in rocket attacks in Syria blamed on ISIS, but Mr Erdogan said Euphrates Shield would continue and "not one drop" of blood would be spilt in vain.

Turkey had previously been accused of not doing enough in the fight against ISIS, and its Western partners have applauded the operation. Turkey's operation is also targeting the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Ankara regards as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 32-year insurrection inside Turkey.

This has created strains with Turkey's Nato ally, the United States, which works with the YPG on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

Mr Erdogan said the "PKK has no chance of resistance against the power of our state", despite an upsurge in violence that has seen hundreds of members of the security forces killed since a ceasefire ruptured in 2015. "The PKK's Syrian branch - the PYD-YPG - awaits the same fate," he added.

The Turkish leader also said the PKK had been trying to step up its attacks and that it had a clear aim of disrupting Turkey's military operations in Syria. "The PKK has suffered a distinct failure in these bloody attacks, which it has conducted at the cost of its most serious losses in its history," he said.

Mr Erdogan previously indicated Turkey and the US had discussed an operation to push ISIS out of its de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, but there have been no details on the timing or how this would work.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Turkey has a duty to defeat ISIS, says Erdogan'. Print Edition | Subscribe