Turkey to push forward with Syria offensive until goals met

Turkey will continue with its military offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces until its goals are reached, the country’s National Security Council said on Tuesday.

Operation Peace Spring, launched by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels on Oct. 9, “will continue until it reaches its goals, while taking all precautions to prevent harm to civilians,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted the council, chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as saying in statement at the presidential complex in Ankara.

The offensive aimed to clear the region of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers as terrorists linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and create a safe zone for the resettlement of millions of refugees.

Turkey halted the operation on day nine, after striking two separate deals with the United States and Russia, calling for the withdrawal of the once U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces from the planned safe zone.

Ankara maintains the YPG has failed to withdraw from some areas and continues to attack both soldiers and civilians.

Turkey expects the United States and Russia to fulfil their agreements with Ankara as soon as possible to clear the YPG from areas of northern Syria, including Tel Rifat and Manbij, the council said.

The council also reiterated that Turkey would continue its determined fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and is open to any cooperation towards that end.

“We call on the international community to support Turkey, which aims for the safe and voluntary return of Syrians to their country without any discrimination based on ethnicity or religion,” the council said.

The YPG previously spearheaded the U.S.-led war on ISIS, however, the Turkish offensive has shifted its focus to its own survival.

The council also condemned decisions about the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, in an apparent reference to the U.S. House of Representatives resolution on the subject earlier last month.

The U.S. House on Oct. 30 voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognising the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One as genocide.

The vote arrived during a time of heightened tensions in U.S.-Turkey relations over a string of issues including Turkey’s Syria offensive and purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system.

Ankara has long denied that there was a systematic campaign to slaughter Armenians as an ethnic group during World War One.