Turkey ‘secured’ most Syrian territories near its border - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that his country had secured most parts of Syria near the Turkish border, pro-government newspaper Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Speaking virtually at a dam opening ceremony in Turkey’s southern border province of Kilis, the Turkish president vowed that Turkey “will continue to make every effort to ensure that our neighbour, Syria, has a bright future based on its territorial integrity and political unity.” 

Turkey first intervened directly in the Syria conflict in August 2016. In Operation Euphrates Shield, it seized a large part of the north-western border region on the west bank of the iconic Euphrates River in a months-long series of battles against the Islamic State group, culminating in the capture of Al-Bab in February 2017.

Then, beginning in January 2018, it launched an unprovoked invasion of the north-western Kurdish enclave of Afrin, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Operation Olive Branch. A similar operation, codenamed Peace Spring, saw Turkey conquer a large swath of Syria’s northeast controlled by Kurdish-led forces in October 2019.

While not connected, these three Turkish-controlled territories span a vast part of Syria’s northern border with Turkey. 

Turkey has occupied these territories since respectively conquering each of them, using its own troops and thousands of Syrian militiamen it has recruited as proxies. Damascus opposes this Turkish presence, arguing that it constitutes aggression from its northern neighbour and illegal occupation of Syrian territory. 

Friday wasn’t the first time Erdoğan commented positively on his country’s presence in Syria. In February 2020, he said that the ‘Syria issue is never an adventure or effort to expand its borders for Turkey.” 

“We have no interest in oil or the land there, we want to secure our borders with a safe zone,” he added.