UPDATE – Terrorism threat in Syria not over: Turkish FM


By Sibel Ugurlu

ANKARA (AA) – Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Syria and Iraq are still threatened by Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, PKK and PYD/YPG terror groups.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, 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 [with] 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 were only symptoms of a larger problem and its root causes must be addressed.

Recalling the agreement between Turkey and Russia reached on Sept. 17 in the Russian city of Sochi to create a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib, Cavusoglu said: "There is another opportunity for the political solution in Syria."

"Therefore, we need to do our best to encourage United Nations and [the UN's special envoy for Syria, Steffan] De Mistura to form 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, saying: "Otherwise, we will end up creating further instability in Syria or elsewhere."

The minister further recalled Turkey's overseas counter-terrorism operations in Syria's Azaz, Jarabulus and Afrin and said these operations were not just military in nature.

"We have also aimed at eliminating horrible humanitarian conditions and address 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, Day 58 of the operation, 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.