Turkey will not leave northern Syria until cleared of terrorists - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that NATO allies should take Turkey’s security concerns seriously, adding that Turkey would continue its military presence in northern Syria until the region is cleared of what he called terrorist threats.

“Allies should take our security concerns seriously, just as we take the threats to the alliance seriously,” Erdoğan said in a presser in London organised a day after the NATO leaders’ summit. 

The president said he had shared Turkey’s serious concerns both during the summit and in bilateral meetings he made with leaders of NATO member countries.

Erdoğan on Tuesday met the leaders of France, Germany and Britain, amid strong criticism from European leaders following Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria launched on Oct. 9.  

The President said he had stated during the four-way meeting that Turkey would not leave the area between the northeastern Syrian towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn until peace was established, according to Hürriyet newspaper. 

Erdoğan said he had also admonished the three leaders for supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Ankara plans to establish a 32 km deep safe zone in northern Syria along a 120 km stretch of the border areas it cleared of the YPG, and intends to resettle a portion of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. 

Erdoğan said he, French President Emmanuelle Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Borish Johnson had agreed to organise four-way summits annually, adding that the next meeting would be in Istanbul in February 2020. 

“Unfortunately, the indifference of countries to this issue continues,” Erdoğan said when asked whether the European leaders responded to Turkey’s calls to shoulder the financial burden of resettling Syrians. “I will not name it, but only one country said ‘we will give you the required support’,” he said.