Turkey’s president on Thursday said terror groups have still not withdrawn from northern Syrian territories falling under the area of Turkey’s anti-terror operation.
“The pledge that the terror groups YPG/PYD, Daesh [also called ISIS], and PKK would withdraw from the region within 120 hours was not fulfilled,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in the capital Ankara before leaving for an official visit to Hungary to attend the 4th High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council Meeting.
He added that YPG/PKK terrorists continue to attack Turkey’s local allies the Syrian National Army (SNA), violating the safe zone agreements there, and 11 SNA soldiers were martyred Thursday morning.
Erdogan also stressed that Russia also did not keep its pledge that YPG/PKK terrorists would pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with Syria within 150 hours as part of an Oct. 22 deal between Turkey and Russia.
Operation Peace Spring, launched on Oct. 9, aims to eliminate terrorist YPG/PKK elements from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
Daesh/ISIS and Hungary trip
Turning to Turkey’s capture this week of the widow and sister of Daesh/ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Erdogan said they would be sent to repatriation centers, and Turkey’s Justice Ministry would deal with the issue.
Baghdadi, who was born in Iraq, blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. forces in Idlib, Syria.
The issue of the handling of Daesh/ISIS members and their families detained in Syria — including foreign members of the terror group — has led to controversy, with Turkey arguing that foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin.
Underlining Turkey’s determination to fight Daesh/ISIS, Erdogan said that over the years Turkey has barred the entry of some 76,000 members of the terror group.
Turkey has so far deported some 7,500 Daesh/ISIS members, Erdogan said, adding that there are currently 1,149 Daesh/ISIS terrorists in its prisons.
Since Turkey recognized Daesh/ISIS as a terrorist group in 2013, it has been attacked by Daesh/ISIS terrorists numerous times, including in 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks which killed 315 people, including police officers and soldiers, and injured hundreds.
In response to these attacks, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad, neutralizing 3,500 Daesh/ISIS terrorists and arresting 5,500.
During his one-day visit to Hungary, Erdogan will meet his counterpart Janos Ader and Prime Minister Victor Orban.
Bilateral relations, regional and international issues, and steps to boost strategic cooperation between Turkey and Hungary will be discussed during the meeting.
Erdogan will also meet with Turkish and Hungarian businesspeople and visit the 16th-century Tomb of Gul Baba and an exhibit of Ottoman era Turkish archery in miniatures.