Erdoğan says Turkey has right to act unless militants cleared from Syria border
(Updates with Erdoğan's remarks on Western countries, Crusades)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Turkey had the legitimate right to act if militants are not cleared from its border with war-torn Syria, where Ankara has carried out multiple military offensives since 2016.
Erdoğan made his remarks during a speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in parliament.
"If the terrorists here are not cleared as we were promised, we have the legitimate right to mobilise once again," Deutsche Welle Turkish cited Erdoğan as saying, referring to predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey designates a terrorist group due to links to an insurgency on its own soil.
"The terror group and the threats it poses to our country are continuing in areas along our Syrian border that are not under our control,’’ he added.
The Turkish president also expressed concern about Syria's northwest Idlib region, where the Ankara-Moscow brokered ceasefire deal in March to stop heavy fighting between Syrian government forces and Turkey-backed rebels.
"The attack by Russia on Syrian National Army forces in the Idlib region shows that lasting peace in the region is not wanted," Erdoğan said.
At least 78 people were killed and scores wounded on Monday, following air strikes on a camp in northwest Syria run by Turkish-backed rebel fighters, according to London-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Erdoğan also said Western countries mocking Islam were looking to “relaunch the Crusades,” heightening a row with France over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that have stirred anger across Muslim-majority countries.
Standing against attacks on Islam’s Prophet was “an issue of honour,” Erdoğan said.
”Since the Crusades, the seeds of evil and hatred have started falling on these (Muslim) lands and that’s when peace was disrupted,” the Turkish president added.
Erdoğan on Monday called on Turks to boycott French goods amid a row over plans by Macron to take a tougher stance on radical Islam.
Erdoğan’s remarks follow an announcement by Turkish officials that Ankara would take legal and diplomatic steps in response to a caricature of Erdoğan in France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine, which officials called a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred”.