Turkey’s president has vowed to prosecute terrorists ‘no matter who they collude with’
Türkiye is determined to “uproot” terrorists no matter where they are or who they ally with, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. His comments come after Washington protested to Ankara over an airstrike that “directly threatened” US troops working with Kurdish militias in Syria, whom Türkiye considers terrorists.
“No matter who the terrorists collude with, Turkey will always hold them accountable for every drop of blood they shed,” Erdogan said in a speech at the Istanbul Shipyard. The Turkish President joined Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the inauguration ceremony of “PNS Khaibar”, one of the four corvettes that Islamabad has ordered from Türkiye.
Erdogan also said that “No one can lecture Turkey, which is the only NATO ally to have fought Daesh in hand-to-hand combat and emerged victorious,” referring to the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
Since Sunday, Ankara has carried out air and artillery strikes, dubbed Operation Sword-Claw, in northern Syria and Iraq. Its targets are the Kurdish militias that Türkiye holds responsible for the November 13 terrorist attack in Istanbul which left six dead and 81 injured. On Wednesday, Turkish planes bombed a location just 300 meters from a US base near Hasakah, prompting the Pentagon to accuse Turkey of endangering its troops and the fight against IS.
“The recent airstrikes in Syria have directly threatened the safety of American personnel working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain custody of more than ten thousand ISIS detainees,” said Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder. He added that continued escalation threatened “Years of Progress” of the US-led coalition.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar responded on Friday saying that Ankara only targets terrorists and that “it is out of the question for us to harm coalition forces or civilians.”
The US State Department has previously acknowledged that all ISIS-controlled territory was liberated in March 2019. Washington continues to maintain around 900 troops in Syria, without permission from the government in Damascus or the UN.
Earlier this week, Erdogan said Türkiye’s goal was to create a “buffer” along the Syrian border, specifically mentioning the towns of Tall Rifat, Manbij and Kobane. The 30-kilometre strip was the stated target of Turkey’s 2019 incursion into Syria, which drew condemnation from some NATO allies and sanctions from the United States.