ISTANBUL (AA): Turkey is not in Syria for an “adventure” or to expand its borders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
“Syria issue is never an adventure or effort to expand its borders for Turkey,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Istanbul deputies.
Erdogan said some have failed to understand the meaning of the fight Turkey gives in Syria, however, the scene is “obvious” as the country has been the target of the PKK terror group for nearly 40 years.
He said it should not be forgotten that around 7,500 security personnel and 6,800 civilians have been killed by PKK in Turkey since 1984.
“The number of trained and equipped separatist terrorists in Syria alone is said to be around 40,000-60,000,” the president said.
He also noted that the number of Turkish soldiers martyred rose to 34 from the Thursday’s airstrike by the Syrian regime in northwestern Idlib de-escalation zone.
He said over 2,100 Syrian regime soldiers have been killed, while around 300 vehicles were destroyed.
“We will keep increasing this pressure every passing day, and show our determination to both — the regime and all those who support them,” Erdogan said.
He said nearly four million refugees are recently moving towards Turkey’s border with Syria due to the bloody attacks of Bashar al-Assad regime on civilians, while 1.5 million of them are already at the southern border.
Turkey in Syria to secure borders
“We have no interest in oil or the land there, we want to secure our borders with a safe zone,” Erdogan said.
He also said that Turkey is in Syria not upon the invitation of Bashar al-Assad regime but the Syrian people, and it would not leave until Syrian nation asks Turkey to do so.
“It is more than negligence to think that those who split Syria into three de facto [parts] today, would respect Turkey’s integrity,” Erdogan noted.
Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under the September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
The attacks on Turkish troops in Idlib have surged in recent weeks as the regime and its allies continue flouting the cease-fire.
Late Thursday, at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, just across Turkey’s southern border.
Turkey pledged that such assaults would not go unanswered.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
Turkey cannot handle another refugee influx
With Turkey already hosting 3.7 million Syrians, Erdogan said it cannot handle another refugee influx.
He recalled that Turkey warned other countries months ago that it might have to open its border gates if the situation remains the same.
“They were disturbed. They did not believe in it. But what did we do yesterday? [We] opened the gates,” he said.
“As of this morning around 18,000 [migrants] forced their way out of the gates. But the number might reach 25,000-30,000 today. We will not close the gates in the coming process.”
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee hosting country.