Presidential spokesman Kalın holds press statement after cabinet meeting
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın made statements and answered reporters’ questions in a press conference at the Presidential Complex following the meeting of the Presidential Cabinet.
In the conference broadcast live, Presidential Spokesperson Kalın said: "We today held the 14th cabinet meeting chaired by Mr. President, who started the meeting with an opening speech.
He made statements in his speech about domestic and foreign developments, ongoing security operations, regional issues, incidents in Syria and Iraq, the fight against terror, the economic situation and the future course of events. "
Turkey currently fights against three terrorist organizations at the same time. On one hand are the terrorist organization PKK and its extensions PYD/YPG.
On the other hand are DAESH and its extensions in Syria, Iraq and other regions. What is more, we continue to fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization [FETO] across the world.
An overall assessment was made on these issues, with presentations made by the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Interior and the National Intelligence Organization.
It was strongly emphasized that our determination in the fight against terror will continue in the period ahead as well.
As was pointed out in the presentation of the Ministry of National Defense, the operations Claw-1 and Claw-2, which have blown heavy deals to the PKK, will intensively continue. The Operation Kiran, conducted by the Ministry of Interior, also continues to yield results.
We addressed in depth the developments in the region, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs making a presentation with a special focus on Syria, in general, and east of the Euphrates, in particular.
"A consensus has been reached with the U.S. on the formation of a safe zone"
As you know, a consensus has been reached with the U.S. on the formation of a safe zone, which represents a positive step in the right direction.
Talks are underway as to its application in practice, duration, and scope. Yet, I can say we have reached a consensus on the main framework.
Our relevant units, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense, continue their talks on the issue. Its application in the field is of extreme importance.
As Mr. Foreign Minister stated, it is impossible for us to accept here the delays and stalling tactics formerly witnessed in the Manbij roadmap.
This also amounts to an important step for the formation of a safe zone east of the Euphrates, which represents the beginning of a new process regarding Turkey's border security with Syria, the protection of Syria’s territorial integrity, and the creation of the conditions that will enable Syrian refugees to return home. I can share further details if you have questions.
"We conveyed our reaction to Russia concerning the attack on the deployment route of our 9th observation post"
As regards the west of the Euphrates, as you know, security has already been ensured in the areas covering Jarabulus, Afrin, and Idlib as a result of Turkey's operations Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield.
These areas continue to be ruled with public order mainly by groups supported by Turkey. Nearly 400 thousand Syrian refugees returned to these areas in the course of last year.
We foresee a similar process east of the Euphrates as well should security conditions be created there.
The issue of Idlib, of course, was also on the agenda of the meeting. Let me note that the situation there is critically sensitive.
We have conveyed our reaction to Russia concerning the attack on the deployment route of our 9th observation post as well as the Syrians killed and the civilians wounded in the attack.
Meeting with President Putin of Russia
Mr. President and Mr. Putin will speak by phone over the next few days, hence the opportunity to address in-depth the issue
As you know, a consensus was reached which stipulated that full security would be ensured and no military operation or activity would take place in the areas where Turkey’s 12 observation posts are located.
We expect this consensus to be abided by and carry on with our relevant efforts at various levels.
It is especially of paramount importance that the borders which have been declared as de-escalation zone and cleared of weapons be protected. Otherwise, this agreement will have been violated, inevitably resulting in a humanitarian tragedy.
We maintain our multi-pronged discussions and efforts on this issue. We hereby would like to reiterate our call for the regime to put an immediate end to such violations. That is so because the attacks on Idlib have claimed about 500 civilian lives and wounded more than a thousand since May.
What is more, nearly 500 thousand people have had to migrate. We will continue with our efforts to immediately bring to an end this process, which we consider to be the harbinger of an approaching humanitarian tragedy.”
Question: "You said a phone conversation between President Erdoğan and President Putin is being planned. In this regard, can there be a phone call with the US President? Also, talks were ongoing regarding Mr. Trump’s visit to Turkey, is there any clarity yet? Yesterday the Syriac Orthodox Foundation shared a message via social media that the terrorist organization, PYD/YPG, were kidnapping Syriac youth and about its other activities and called on the international community. How do you comment?
Presidential Spokesperson Kalın: "As I have stated earlier, Mr. President will have a phone conversation with Mr. Putin over the next few days. I spoke with my counterpart today. They are paying a visit to Finland at the moment. The phone conversation will take place tomorrow or on Friday at the latest.
U.S. President Trump’s visit to Turkey
We are also preparing for a phone conversation with Mr. Trump. I will speak with Mr. Bolton today or tomorrow. After that, Mr. President will speak with Mr. Trump. There is a lot to be discussed, especially the safe zone in Syria and other issues.
As you know, US Secretary of Commerce will visit Turkey in September with a large delegation. He will hold a series of talks in order to achieve our $100 billion trade goal. He is coming with a group of businessmen. He will hold talks to discuss all these matters.
And also there is a possibility of a meeting during our stay in New York for the UNGA in the last week of September. We will work on that.
The White House says they are working on their schedule regarding Mr. Trump’s visit to Turkey. We do not have an exact date, however, Mr. Trump himself said during the meeting in Osaka before the cameras that he would visit Turkey. A specific date has not been set yet. We are talking to our counterparts. We hope the visit will take place soon.
"We welcome Syria orthodox foundation's statement"
We welcome the statement the Syriac Orthodox Foundation made yesterday. As you know, a group, which introduced itself as the Syrian Syriacs, made a statement last week and described the establishment of a safe zone and the joint patrols by the Turkish and US troops in northern Syria as part of the safe zone as an occupation attempt.
In response to that, representatives of the Syriac Orthodox Community in Turkey, who are the true representatives of the Syriacs, convened and made a statement.
They clearly noted in the statement that the groups like the PKK, PYD, YPG oppressed the people living in the regions under their control, especially the Syriacs and other Christians, that they forcibly kidnapped and recruited Syriac children, and that Syriac clergy had to flee their homes.
"Turkey never discriminated people based on their language, religion or ethnicity"
I would like to underline here that Turkey has never discriminated people based on their religion, language or ethnicity in Syria, in Iraq or anywhere else. Among the over 3.5 million Syrian refugees in our country are there Kurdish, Turkmen, Arab, Muslim and Christian people.
The case was the same for the people who immigrated to Turkey when similar atrocities occurred in Iraq.
Since the 16th century, the lands of Anatolia, under the Ottoman rule, welcomed millions of people as migrants and housed people from vast geography stretching from Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, to the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. All those people trusted and came to Turkey.
One day it was a Hungarian prince, another day it was a Kurdish clan or a Chechen group. Sometimes it was the Meskhetian Turks, or the Turks living in Bulgaria, Greece or it was our Muslim brothers and sisters in the Balkans.
Traditionally, Turkey has never discriminated among these people based on their language, religion or ethnicity.
"PYD/YPG tried to be portrayed as freedom fighters"
On Syria, we have done our due so far for the protection of the religious minorities’ rights there.
We have never made a distinction such as this is a Christian area, a Sunni area or a Kurdish area while delivering aid there or conduction operations there. Thankfully, we have a rather clean record here.
When we look at the operations – the Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch- from Jarabulus to Idlib and Afrin, we can clearly see that.
Surely, one must closely examine the background of the statements, originating from Syria, made to propagate in favor of the PYD/YPG and PKK. Some people still try to portray the PYD/YPG as freedom fighters who are combatting terror and the barbarian DAESH members.
We see that approaches that beautify and even romanticize terrorism through certain symbols, especially Kurdish female fighters stand out from time to time in Western media.
However, the realities on the ground are very different. The Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International issued reports in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
We did not write those reports, international human rights organizations did. When you look at those reports, you can clearly see the human rights violations committed by the PYD/YPG in the areas under their control: forced recruitment, kidnapping, appropriation of properties, destruction of villages, arbitrary arrests, executions, shutting down of political parties and media outlets, migration. We see that numerous similar practices have been described as war crimes by those human rights organizations.
"We will continue to stand with all the wronged and oppressed"
From time to time we see that such reports are swept under the rug as part of Western countries’ policy to support the PYD.
However, we see very clearly from our own observations and from what the Syrian people have been telling us that these terrorist organizations do not aim to promote unity, solidarity, peace, and serenity there but to impose their own agenda.
As a step that will eliminate these violations, the safe zone is important. Regardless of the propaganda of the terrorist organizations, we will not give credit to them in Turkey, Syria, Iraq or Europe. Our fight against terrorist organizations will continue until the end.
We will continue to stand with all the wronged and oppressed, whether they be Muslims, Christians, Kurds, Arabs, Sunnis or Nusayris.”
Question: "The works on the safe zone and the Joint Operation Center are continuing. Will the Joint Operation Center start to operate this week and when will the first concrete step regarding the safe zone be taken in the region? Will the U.S. and Turkish forces carry out joint patrols? If so, when? Has a final conclusion been reached with regard to depth and length?”
“Turkish and U.S. forces will shortly begin joint patrols east of the Euphrates"
Presidential spokesperson Kalın: "A schedule has been made concerning this issue; a three or four-stage schedule which consists of the establishment of the Joint Operation Center, beginning of joint patrols and making military plannings on the Syrian ground.
I will not share the details of this schedule with you right now. However, as things are put into practice, you will already see them. As part of this plan, we will see all concrete implementations of this schedule within not months but weeks.
Turkish and U.S. forces will shortly begin joint patrols east of the Euphrates, on the Syrian side. As you know, our drones have already started to fly there. Other practices regarding this issue might be planned as well.
As regards the depth and the scope, although the negotiations are still continuing, our perspective is obvious. What Mr. Trump has previously expressed is an area of 20 miles, in other words of nearly 30-32 kilometers. We might call for an area that is further than that. Some reductions or expansions might be planned in line with the region’s conditions.
Because we make planning there in a way that pays attention especially to the peace and serenity of the local people. And, when joint patrols begin and when we take the control of the area within the framework of the safe zone, we will, in coordination with local people, continue to ensure the local administration there, which will turn the area into a safe zone and which, like I said, will enable Syrian refugees to return to their homes, country, villages and towns in a voluntary and dignified manner.
"A trilateral summit will be hosted by Mr. President in Ankara on September 16"
A forcible return is out of the question, we see such propagandas from time to time. As you know, the current practice is that they move from the cities in which they are not registered to the cities, which they are registered in.
However, of course, the ultimate aim is that refugees return to their own villages, towns, and cities as the security environment in Syria is ensured. That is why the ongoing political process both east and west of the Euphrates is of paramount importance.
In this sense, Mr. President in Ankara will host a trilateral summit on September 16 with the participation of the Russian Federation and Iran.
This summit will be held in Ankara under Mr. President’s chairmanship as a continuation of Astana meetings, which we have been launched earlier.
We will have the chance to thoroughly discuss this issue, especially the implementation of the Idlib agreement, the establishment of the constitutional committee and the main parameters regarding how the next political process will be carried out.”
Question: "On the Idlib issue, in particular, the ninth observation post has reportedly been caught between Assad regime forces. Are there any plans for the relocation of the ninth observation post? And what would you say about the allegation that the Turkish Armed Forces will build a new observation post in the same area?”
"All the observation posts will continue to operate where they are located"
Presidential Spokesperson Kalın: "The closure or the relocation of the ninth observation post is out of the question. The ninth observation post remains where it has been located, and all the observation posts we have built within the Idlib agreement will keep operating where they are located.
On the contrary, our fortification works are continuing to increase security and to maintain the order and security there. We continue to share and coordinate the issue with Russia and other actors.
Therefore, it is a priority for us that our soldiers stay where they are now and ensure their security. Therefore, a relocation or a closure is out of the question, we are not in quest of such a thing. Because, there is an agreement we have reached, and according to that agreement, not only the nine observation posts but also all of them will continue to operate where they are located.
I would like to reiterate our call to the regime and the Russian Federation, which supports the regime, that they end these violations. Like I said, our talks with Russian officials regarding this issue are continuing, and will continue from now on as well.”
Question: "I would like to ask about the depth and the control of the safe zone. Is there an agreement that the safe zone will be under Turkey’s control?"
"It is essential that the safe zone should be under Turkey’s control"
Presidential Spokesperson Kalın: “It is our fundamental expectation with regard to this agreement. The negotiations that I have referred to as earlier already cover these issues, the issue of depth, too.
A step has already been taken, an important step. Although it has not entirely met our expectations, but it is a positive step.
It is due to the definition of the safe zone that this region should also be under Turkey’s control, as is the case in Jarabulus, Al-Bab, and Afrin.
In other words, it is essential that the safe zone should be under Turkey’s control in order for it to not turn into a safe haven or a safe passage route for other terrorist organizations.
And when we say it should be under Turkey’s control, some circles distort the issue and make such allegations that Turkey goes there for invasion.
We have not invaded Jarabulus, Al-Bab, Azaz, Afrin or Idlib. Once we cleared those places of terrorists, we left their administration to local people. As a matter of fact, a de facto safe zone has indeed been created there.
Although it has not been named as that, a safe zone has been formed there. That is so because; there is no PKK, PYD/YPG, DAESH or regime there. The local people there govern themselves and maintain the order and safety with their own means. Implementing a similar model east of the Euphrates is our fundamental expectation."