Erdogan: Operation in northern Iraq, Syria not limited to air campaign
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled a ground operation to northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terror threat, News.Az reports citing Anadolu Agency.
"First of all, this operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria is not an operation that was carried out with random thought by saying 'who would say what?' or 'how would that happen?'
"As we've said before if someone disturbs our country and lands, we will make them pay the price. So, there are terrorist organizations in our south that are planning many attacks or that carry out such attacks and pose a threat (to Türkiye)," Erdogan on Sunday told reporters on the presidential plane returning from his Qatar trip.
Erdogan's remarks came after Türkiye launched early Sunday the Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the terror group YPG/PKK that has illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on the Turkish soil.
"This is not limited to just an air operation," Erdogan stressed, adding that the relevant units will do their consultations and take steps accordingly.
Türkiye's air operation followed last Sunday's terror attack on Istanbul's crowded Istiklal Avenue that killed at least six people and left 81 injured.
The Turkish National Defense Ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Erdogan said nearly 70 aircraft, including armed drones, took part in the operation, and added that a total of 89 terror targets, including shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, and ammunition depots were destroyed.
"At this point, 45 terrorist targets at a depth of approximately 140 km (87 mi) in northern Iraq, and 44 targets at a depth of about 20 km (12 miles) in Syria were hit," he added.
Asked if Türkiye talked about this operation with Russia and the US, Erdogan said: "We have not had any conversations with (US President Joe) Biden or (Russian President Vladimir) Putin regarding this operation. However, both Biden and Putin already know that we can do such things in this region at any time."
Erdogan recalled the Sochi deal between Türkiye and Russia to remove YPG/PKK terrorists from northeastern Syria bordering Türkiye.
"They had the responsibility to clear the terrorists from the area. Unfortunately, even though we reminded them many times over and over, they did not do this.
"We said that we would not remain silent against this, and that we would take steps against the terrorists there if they could not do it," he said.
In this backdrop, Türkiye last Sunday hit 12 terrorist targets in Ayn al-Arab in northern Syria.
Türkiye is with the US in NATO, Erdogan also said, noting, however, that Washington has unfortunately sent thousands of equipment, ammunition, and weapons to the terror zones in Syria.
During his talks with Biden in Indonesia, Erdogan said: "I told him: 'We are together with you in NATO, we are two important allies. Since such a threat came to us from the south, you are putting us in trouble by giving the support to the terrorist organizations here. Of course, we cannot live with these problems. When necessary, we will have to give the necessary answer to them.' Of course, they can't say anything. We have done what is necessary at this point, we are doing it, and we will continue to do so."
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the terror group's Syrian offshoot.