Turkish FM clarifes anti-ISIL mission in Syria

Cavusoglu says Kurdish PYD is not a ‘direct target’ but Ankara opposes the group, stressing ‘moderate opposition’ to take over ‘safe zone’ on border

Turkish FM clarifes anti-ISIL mission in Syria

World Bulletin / News Desk

Fighting the PKK’s Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) is not a part of Turkey’s cooperation with the U.S. against ISIL, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

But he added that Ankara does not endorse the PYD’s activities, and wants the group to be excluded from a ISIL-free zone along Turkey-Syria border.

Speaking at a televised program, Cavusoglu said: "We certainly do not want the PYD to enter these safety zones. We are against it.

“Our position is clear. Moderate opposition forces should be present there," he added.

He noted that the opposition forces in question will be responsible for maintaining the security of the “safe zone” to be established.

The PYD is a Syria-based affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Both Turkey and the U.S. have reportedly warned the PYD not to cross to the west of the Firat (Euphrates) River. They were also warned to avoid causing any demographic change in the region and allow the return of Syria's Turkmen and Arab population, which had previously fled their homes because of fighting against ISIL.

Meanwhile, the Turkish foreign minister confirmed that operations were launched from Incirlik Air Base on Wednesday within the framework of the bilateral agreement between Ankara and Washington.

However, Cavusoglu seemed to suggest that “only reconnaissance flights took place”.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic later said that the operations had various phases, separate for strikes and reconnaissance.

"These are operational and military issues. What our minister pointed out is that Turkish aircraft were not involved in yesterday's [Wednesday] operations," said Bilgic.

Top U.S. military officials confirmed late Wednesday that the U.S. launched its first manned airstrikes against ISIL targets from the Incirlik base. 

Last month, Turkey agreed to allow U.S.-led coalition forces to launch airstrikes against ISIL positions from Incirlik, located near Turkey’s border with war-torn Syria.

The U.S. began flying armed missions from the strategic air base in southeastern Turkey last weekend, and carried out the first unmanned airstrike from the base last Tuesday.

During the weekend, the U.S. sent a contingent of six F-16s, and 300 American personnel to Incirlik.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Ağustos 2015, 16:41