Ahead of flying to Sochi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to resume Operation Peace Spring in Syria unless Washington fulfilled its promise on withdrawing Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units in the northeast.
"Unless they [the US] keep their word, we will continue the operation with greater resolve. By now, some 700-800 terrorists have left the security zone and we expect that by 22.00 another 1,200 militants will leave these territories," Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday, TASS reports.
According to Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron has not suggested pausing Operation Peace Spring for longer. "I haven’t received such an offer from Macron. By the way, France is more discussing such issues with terrorists than with Turkey," the Turkish leader stressed, hinting at Macron’s meetings with representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The Turkish president also said he was upset by some statements by Iran on Ankara’s operation in Syria. However, Erdogan is sure that these statements were not linked to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "Various statements are unfortunately coming from Iran. But they don’t come from Rouhani. Mr. Rouhani should better force them to keep silence," Erdogan stated.
Erdogan also said before flying to Sochi that he plans to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the situation in Syria, with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
"We will have an opportunity to discuss both bilateral issues and various regional problems. We will discuss Syria. We have a similar approach to war on terror with Russia. We will also talk about the fight against the Self-Defense Forces in the territories controlled by the [Assad] regime," Erdogan told reporters at a news conference in Ankara on Tuesday.
On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. The Erdogan government claimed that its goal is to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Turkey’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Ankara’s incursion into Syria has triggered an outcry in the region and across the world. The Syrian SANA news agency branded the operation as an act of aggression, while the international community condemned Erdogan’s military operation.
On October 17, the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, reached a deal with Erdogan to pause Operation Peace Spring. Turkey consented to a 120-hour ceasefire so that Kurdish units making up the coalition of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) could leave the areas of the border security zone that Ankara is attempting to create.