UPDATE 2- Terrorism threat in Syria not over: Turkish FM


By Sibel Ugurlu

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's foreign minister said on Wednesday that Syria and Iraq are still being threatened by the terrorist groups Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, the PKK, and PYD/YPG.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Mevlut Cavusoglu urged the international community to unite, saying "no country can fight these threats on its own".

Cavusoglu underlined a new phase in the fight against terrorism.

"In Syria and Iraq, we are able to deal a major blow to Daesh. We are not talking about the state-like structure with huge financial resources anymore, yet the threat is not over," Cavusoglu said.

"If you don’t find sustainable political solutions in Syria, terrorists will continue to exploit the situation."

He added that Daesh and other terrorist groups are only symptoms of a larger problem whose root causes must be addressed.

-Opportunity for political solution in Syria

Citing the Sept. 17 agreement between Turkey and Russia to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria, Cavusoglu said: "There is another opportunity for a political solution in Syria."

"Therefore, we need to do our best to encourage the United Nations and [Special UN Syria Envoy Staffan] De Mistura to form a constitutional committee and also encourage both sides, the regime and the opposition, to start meaningful negotiations for a lasting political solution," he said.

Turkey and Russia also signed a memorandum of understanding on that date calling for the "stabilization" of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Under the pact, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to ward off renewed fighting.

Cavusoglu also warned against partnering with other terrorist groups while combating Daesh — referring to U.S. support for the PKK/PYD and PKK/YPG — saying: "Otherwise, we will end up creating further instability in Syria or elsewhere."

– Cross-border operations

Mentioning Turkey's cross-border counter-terrorism operations in Syria's Azaz, Jarabulus, and Afrin, he said these operations were not just military in nature.

"We have also aimed at eliminating horrible humanitarian conditions and addressing the vacuum of governors that enable the terrorist groups to expand," he added.

Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in August 2016 and ended in March 2017, was aimed at eliminating the terrorist threat along the Turkish border with the use of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from northwestern Syria's Afrin region. On March 18, Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army members liberated the town of Afrin.

In June, the Turkish and U.S. forces began patrols in Syria's Manbij in line with a deal focusing on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated YPG terror group from the northern Syrian city in order to stabilize the region.

Cavusoglu also said that improved cooperation, information-sharing with partners, and crisis analysis units established at key locations in Turkey helped to disrupt the ability of foreign terrorists to move about freely.

Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey's efforts contributed to regional security and the safety of people beyond its borders.

"Turkey is shouldering a huge burden. However, we don’t feel full support coming from the international community. Still our efforts will continue to ensure common security and also to assist the vulnerable and desperate people coming from all these regional countries and beyond."