UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM AKAR
By Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – Any military operation in Syria’s Idlib would drag a region rife with problems to disaster, Turkey’s national defense minister said.
"Idlib is on the brink of a new crisis. Turkey is working with Russia, Iran, and other allies to establish peace and stability [in Syria] and to stop the humanitarian tragedy," Hulusi Akar said.
"We should attach importance to developing cooperation among our countries in this period of uncertainty," he added.
Akar’s remarks came during a meeting with some ambassadors on Wednesday.
"Bombing the region will not only cause damage to the civilians and migration but also to radicalization," Akar said.
Located near the Turkish border, Idlib province is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.
The Syrian regime has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive to the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.
The UN warned that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".
– Fight against terrorism
The Turkish minister also said that Turkey has been fighting against multiple threats simultaneously.
"While fighting against FETO, PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK, on the other hand, we are hosting over 3 million Syrians," Akar said.
Akar underlined that Turkey respects the territorial and political integrity of all of its neighbors.
"But we have never remained silent to any attack on our country from these countries, and we will not do so," he added.
Akar said the PKK and the YPG are the same terrorist entities.
"[It’s] called the PKK in Turkey and Iraq, and it is called YPG in Syria."
The U.S. and the coalition have largely ignored the links of the PYD/YPG group with the PKK, which the U.S. and the EU also list as a terrorist group.
Turkey has repeatedly objected to U.S. support for the terrorist PKK/PYD as a "reliable ally" in Syria, which has included supplying arms and equipment.
On Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch military operations, Akar said: "We have neutralized over 3,000 Daesh terrorists in Operations Euphrates Shield. As Turkey, we are the only country fighting against Daesh face to face. Other countries are conducting airstrikes."
"We neutralized over 5,000 PKK and Daesh terrorists in Operation Olive Branch," Akar added.
Operation Euphrates Shield, which began on Aug. 24, 2016, and ended in March 2017, aimed at eliminating the Daesh threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab, and Azaz 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 Afrin. On March 18, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army liberated the Afrin district center.