FM: Turkey may send troops deeper into Syria
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey is planning to send troops deeper into Syrian territory to establish what it calls a safe zone.
“Initially, we may move at least 45 kilometers down and we must move further down in order to seal off the Manbij region. Then, a 5,000-kilometer de facto safe zone can be established,” he told English-language France 24 television on Sunday.
Manbij in northern Syria near the border with Turkey is currently controlled by US-backed Kurdish militants who captured it in August after Daesh terrorists left it.
Turkish troops, backed by tanks and warplanes, entered the Syrian territory in September in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after Daesh left the city without resistance.
In his interview, Cavusoglu suggested that Turkish troops would march ahead to take the Syrian city of Raqqah. He touted the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces which helped Turkish troops in the incursion, saying they should serve as a model for the campaign to take back Raqqah.
He also denied allegations that Turkey had entered Syria to attack the PYD/YPG Kurdish group, but warned that the US had not fulfilled its promise to Turkey that those groups would not cross the Euphrates.
Cavusoglu also blasted Washington for arming the PYD/YPG group, calling it “unacceptable.”
On Saturday, head of FSA’s northern division Colonel Fares al-Bayoush said militants in Syria were about to receive new types of heavy weapons from their foreign supporters.
The United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been channeling military support to militants fighting under the banner of the FSA for several years.
The support for the militants described by Washington as “moderate” also includes training by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The fresh arming of the militants comes as the Syrian army is pushing ahead with a large-scale operation to drive Takfiri terrorists out of Aleppo.
Cavusoglu squarely blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies for the failure of a recent ceasefire which collapsed after the US and its allies killed 82 Syrian soldiers in airstrikes.
Turkey and the US, however, are at odds over Washington’s supply of weapons to Kurdish militants. Tensions, meanwhile, have escalated since a July 15 failed coup which Ankara claims was masterminded by US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen.
On Sunday, Cavusoglu said Turkey has provided the US with solid evidence of Gulen’s role in the coup, saying Ankara expects Washington to extradite him soon.
“We expect our ally the US to complete this process and extradite him [Gulen] to Turkey as soon as possible,” the foreign minister said.
Asked when the extradition would happen, Cavusolgu said relevant courts would decide it.