Turkey will not negotiate with Syrian regime or Kurdish groups, no ceasefire – VP Oktay

There will be no ceasefire and Turkey will not back out of the incursion on Syria, Vice President Fuat Oktay told Sky News on Tuesday.

The country will not be negotiating with the Syrian regime, or the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which control the territory Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring is targeting, Oktay continued.

The Syrian regime is responsible for the four million refugees Turkey is currently hosting, and terrorist organisations gaining ground in Syria, he said. “Why should we sit and talk with such a regime which has already killed millions of its own citizens?”

“There’s a state fighting against terrorism, and you expect us to sit and talk with terrorists?” he asked.

Fuat Oktay called the United States’ alliance with the SDF “a pity,” that Turkey hopes stemmed from a misunderstanding of who the SDF is. “I wish [Turkey’s allies] would change their policies,” he said.

The humanitarian crisis was not caused by Turkey, Oktay argued, and his country was the side providing humanitarian assistance. “We are there for humanitarian reasons,” he added.

Oktay denied any involvement by Turkey with the attack against a civilian convoy, which resulted in the death of a Kurdish politician. According to the vice president, Turkey used surgical precision in previous operations to avoid harm to civilians.

Turkey is also investigating the videos that have emerged, allegedly showing the country’s Syrian allies killing civilians, and will not tolerate any violations, he said.

The Turkish army will never harm any civilians, unless they are part of PKK or ISIS, Oktay added.

European countries have to take responsibility in helping Turkey with refugees and sharing the burden, he said.

Vice President Oktay argued that by clearing north-east Syria of “PKK terrorists”, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party which Turkey maintains has ties with the SDF, Syrian refugees in Turkey will be able to return to their homeland.

Turkey hopes to not fight against the Syrian regime, but is determined to gain control over Manbij, Oktay said.

According to the vice president, Turkey’s plan is to maintain control over the 30-kilometre-deep safe zone until the issues are resolved. “Hopefully it’s not going to be for years,” Oktay said, pointing to the Syrian constitutional committee’s efforts for a political solution.