Ankara is creating a “safe zone” for refugees in the area of the Syrian city of Jarablus that on Wednesday was taken over by the Syrian armed opposition with the support of the Turkish troops, Turkish president’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told CNN television in an interview on Thursday.
“The primary goal of the Shield of Euphrates operation,” he said, “is to clear our border from all ISIS (Islamic State, IS) terrorists as well as from other terrorist elements.”
Asked about the next steps Ankara is going to take, he said: “For the last two years, we’ve been arguing for a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border for a number of reasons, first of all to protect our borders, but also to provide a sanctuary for Syrian refugees.” “And then those areas will be given to the Syrian people to manage, to control”. “And this is what’s being happening in Jarablus right now.”
Kalin was also asked how Turkey’s position on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stay in power changed after normalization of relations between Moscow and Ankara. “First of all, our position on the future of Assad hasn’t changed,” the Turkish presidential spokesperson said. “We believe Mr Assad has no place in the future of Syria because he’s lost all legitimacy.”
“For the transition period that is an essential part of the political transition process, on which we are working with Russians and Americans under the UN, we would like to focus on the mechanism rather than on the person,” he added.
On August 24, the Turkish troops, together with the opposition Syrian Free Army launched an operation in the north of Syria, during which they took control of Jarablus and ousted militants of the Islamic State (IS, banned in Russia) terrorist group from it. Damascus condemned the operation, calling it a direct violation of Syria’s sovereignty.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said, denouncing the Turkish troops’ incursion into Syria that “any move to combat terrorism on Syrian territories should have been coordinated with the Syrian government and army.” The statement also calls for an immediate end to the Turkish “aggression,” which it says is being carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
“Fighting terrorism cannot be undertaken by ousting Daesh and replacing it with other terrorist organizations directly backed by Turkey,” the ministry said, quoted by the SANA news agency. Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for IS. The statement added that Turkish tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria under the cover of US-led coalition airstrikes.