Erdogan lays out Turkish condition to end Syria offensive

Displaced Syrian families, who fled the violence following the Turkish offensive in Syria, travelling by bus to camps on the outskirts of Dohuk city, in Iraq. The United States' decision to stand aside when Turkey advanced into Syria to push back Kur
Displaced Syrian families, who fled the violence following the Turkish offensive in Syria, travelling by bus to camps on the outskirts of Dohuk city, in Iraq. The United States' decision to stand aside when Turkey advanced into Syria to push back Kurdish groups controlling the north-east has reconfigured old alliances and taken Syria's eight-year-old civil war into uncharted territory.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday said Turkey's military operation in Syria could end after Kurdish fighters leave a strip of territory along its border, laying out his key condition for ending an offensive that has drawn US sanctions and roiled markets.

The United States' decision to stand aside when Turkey advanced into Syria to push back Kurdish groups controlling the north-east has reconfigured old alliances and taken Syria's eight-year-old civil war into uncharted territory.

Kurdish-led forces, who fought with US backing to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have struck a deal for President Bashar al-Assad to deploy his troops to the border area, raising the prospects for a wider escalation and questions over the fate of thousands of militants who are being held in the area.

Mr Erdogan told lawmakers that "our proposal for the most certain resolution to the problem in Syria is that all the terrorists should leave their arms and other materials and destroy the traps that they have set and leave the secure zone" that is defined by Turkey.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday said he and Vice-President Mike Pence expect to meet Mr Erdogan when they travel to Turkey this week.

Mr Pompeo, in an interview with Fox Business Network, said the US delegation was planning to leave yesterday and that the goal was to find a resolution to the situation in Syria, not break the US-Turkey relationship.

Mr Fahrettin Altun, Mr Erdogan's director of communications, has told Bloomberg that Turkey expects the US to provide support to get all the "terrorists" out of the buffer zone that it wants to create in Syria. The so-called "safe zone" should stretch about 450km along the Turkish-Syrian border and run 30km to 35km deep, Mr Altun said.

The area needs to be free of both Kurdish militants and fighters from ISIS, he added.

Russia yesterday said Turkey has a right to ensure its own security but that its military operation must not undermine efforts to end the Syrian civil war.

 
 
 

"We respect Turkey's right to take measures to ensure its own security, but we expect that the operation will be proportional to this expediency - to ensure security and the tasks of ensuring security," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov during a conference call .

While it is hard to say how long the operation may go on, Russia hopes it will not "harm the process of political settlement" of the Syrian conflict, he said.

A renewed sell-off gripped Turkish markets after the US brought criminal charges against one of the nation's largest banks, in what could be an escalation of Washington's efforts to reprimand Ankara for its military incursion into Syria.

Stocks fell, with government bonds and shares of Turkey's state-run Halkbank slumping as much as 7.4 per cent, the most since March. The US indictment was filed as part of the sanctions introduced against the military operation in Syria.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Erdogan lays out Turkish condition to end Syria offensive'. Print Edition | Subscribe