Interview of the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Turkey to Azerbaijan Erkan Ozoral to APA
– According to the reached agreement between Turkey and the United States of America, the “Peace Spring” operation was paused for 120 hours. This period ended yesterday. How to evaluate the conclusion of this agreement?
– Terrorists’ withdrawal in the region has been reported on the statement of the Turkish Defense Ministry. We have achieved a significant part of what we wanted to achieve through the Peace Spring operation.
However, as the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, there are still several issues that need to be fulfilled, and some steps the United States of America needs to take. We will see whether those steps will be taken or not. Turkey had two key objectives regarding the "Peace Spring" operation. The first of these goals was to clear our border from terrorist elements, and the second one was to create the needed conditions for Syrian refugees to return their country. The first phase was mostly completed. Now our activities will be ongoing for the second target.
– What are Turkey's dissatisfactory points?
– A 13-item statement has been demonstrated regarding the agreement between Turkey and the United States of America. It is necessary to fully implement all of the provisions of the statement. For instance: One of them was the withdrawal of terrorist elements from these places. They withdrew, and now the necessary controls must be provided in those areas. The actions of the terrorist organization in this region need to be completely prevented. Our soldiers will provide full control of the area at 32 km width and this area will be secured. Security in Tel-Abya and Resulayn cities will be extra ensured. There are still weapon warehouses and different guns are being discovered there during the operations carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces. Work in this direction will continue. Our goal is to completely remove the region from being a nest for terrorism. Our goal is to create a suitable environment for people to live and to return their homes without having any fears. We have reached an agreement not only with the United States of America but also with Russia. At the moment, our goal is to provide complete control over the safe zone by the Turkish soldiers. Steps are being taken in this regard.
– Does the agreement reached with Russia in Sochi meet Turkey's interests?
– Russia is one of the most important countries that Turkey is currently contacting to assist to bring peace to Syria. We are together with Russia in the Astana process, and our activities include not only ending the war, but also the steps towards ensuring peace and stability in Syria after the war. The creation of the Constitutional Commission and other measures are also taken in this context. And the Turkish President also realized his visit to Sochi yesterday based on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. We concluded that all matters related to the Syrian crisis and Turkey-Russia relations have been discussed at the 6 hour-long meeting. A 10-item agreement was also announced at the end of this meeting. Both Turkey and Russia will continue to develop the close co-operation towards the future of Syria, the elimination of the terrorist threat towards Turkey, and the preservation of peace in the region even more. We have reached an agreement with Russia to completely remove the terrorist elements from the area nearby to the region which we have freed from terrorists through the "Peace Spring" operation, to make these areas more suitable for refugees to return.
-According to Sochi agreement, together with Russia faithful forces to Bashar Asad will be located in the border of Turkey. Does it meet the interests of Turkey?
- Among the main goals of the main measures taken by Turkey regarding the Syrian border, the withdrawal of terrorists from our country and insurance of security of Turkey takes the first place. The members of terrorist organizations with the support of some countries implemented acts of terrorism against Turkey near our border like they created a terrorist state. During the Peace Spring operation, even during 120 hours interval in operation they conducted terror acts against Turkey. As a result of this, plenty of our citizens martyred, injured. Therefore, our main goal was to prevent the use of territories near our borders for terror acts against Turkey. One of the main purposes of the agreement reached with Russia is to clean terrorists from the area near our borders. We also held discussions in the same field with Russia as we held it with the US in order to achieve our goal.
When it comes to the arrival of Asad forces to border areas, our second goal is Syria’s reach peace, stability and beautiful days within the territorial integrity of Syria. That is why there is no place for terrorist organizations in these areas. The sides not cooperating, establishing close relations with terrorist organizations and not tolerating them, maybe on our side, in our border. Our all problems are about terrorist organizations and the future of Syria. That is why we are taking important steps to be taken. We have not had any contact or discussions with the Syrian regime. But, we discussed necessary measures with Russia in order to ensure security near our border. Russia in its turn provided necessary measures in this regard.
– Withdrawal of YPG/PYD terror fighters 32 km far from the Turkish border within 150 hours has been reflected in the Sochi agreement. Which measures will be taken by Turkey, if soldiers, loyal to Bashar al-Asad are settled on border zone with Turkey within the period, but the withdrawal of YPG/PYD terror fighters is not provided?
– In the Sochi agreement, our main term is the withdrawal of YPG/PYD terror fighters from Turkey’s borders. Russia has promised Turkey, we believe that Russia will keep its promise. After 150 hours Russian and Turkish soldiers will jointly start patrol service, provide security of the zone together. We believe in the realization of the promise and think that we will witness it after a period of 150 hours. Nobody would wish the need for another thing. Turkey would never wish such a thing. However, if there is a need to take any measure to provide Turkey’s security, Turkey will always take these measures and takes it.
– We have information that the main terrorist camps of YPG / PYD are precisely Kamyshly and Ainan Al-Arab. But the Sochi Agreement does not cover these regions.
- Russia promised us to ensure the security of these regions. We know and expect that steps will also be taken in these regions to protect our security. After a 150-hour period, we will see what is happening in these regions, and, accordingly, we will take the necessary steps. Our main goal is to ensure the security and return of the Syrians to these regions. Neither Ainan Al-Arab nor Kamyshly will remain outside the regions where the Syrians will return. We will focus on the return of Syrian citizens to these regions. What needs to be done for this will be done step by step. We will do our best to ensure that the security zone is created in such a way that it will meet our expectations.
– The Syrian regime is adjacent to Turkey. Hasn't the time of direct negotiations between official Ankara and the Syrian regime matured? And in Turkey, this opinion often sounds.
– Various issues are on the agenda. But Turkey’s policy towards Syria is unambiguous and clear. It is known with whom we will negotiate, with whom we will not conduct. Our president said that there are certain contacts with the Syrian regime at a low level, within the framework of intelligence agencies. But at present, direct negotiations between Turkey and the Syrian regime are not the subject of discussion. We held yesterday’s discussion with Russia and reached an agreement with Russia. And to implement this agreement or not, we will also discuss it with Russia.
– If you pay attention to the Turkish-American, Turkish-Russian agreements, how real is the realization of the second main goal of the operation "Source of Peace", that is, the return of 1-2 million people to these territories? Indeed, many of them fled from the war, and the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad will again control these territories.
– In the security zone on the Turkish border, we will also strive to create mechanisms to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to the country. There are currently 3 million 650 thousand Syrian refugees in Turkey. Turkey has spent more than $ 40 billion on Syrian refugees. No one in the world has helped us in this matter. The European Union supported us most of all. They promised us $ 6 billion, but so far only 3 billion have been transferred. Turkey itself provides financial assistance to these people. We set a goal to ensure the return of at least 1 million Syrian refugees to their homeland. This is not limited to the words “peace has been established in the region”. This means providing living conditions for people, improving the economy. An example of this was our operations in the Shield of the Euphrates and the Olive Branch. The economy, life in these regions is stable. People can earn a piece of bread, find a job. 10 days ago, our president signed a decree stipulating the creation of 3 faculties at the University of Gaziantep in these regions. That is, in these regions not only Turkish soldiers. Turkey is making a lot of efforts to return the Syrians to their native lands. No one but us does this. We intend to carry out this work in the region where Operation Source of Peace is being carried out. 360 thousand people returned to the regions where the Shield of the Euphrates and the Olive Branch were held. We expect the same amount to be returned as part of Operation Source of Peace.
– In this aspect, the Idlib problem should be recalled. Turkey, as part of Operation Source of Peace, plans to return 3,600,000 Syrians to their homeland, but there is a danger that 3 million refugees will pour from Idlib to Turkey. Was the Idlib problem discussed at a meeting in Sochi? What is Turkey’s approach to the Idlib problem?
– In Idlib, the situation is sometimes tense, and the issue of possible flow of refugees is relevant. Until today, we have worked closely with Russia on the security issue of Idlib. We have an agreement with Russia on Idlib, and both sides are committed to its conditions, efforts are being made to implement it. Turkey is confident that it will fulfill its obligations. The main goal is to prevent tension in Idlib. Both countries succeeded, despite the armed confrontation. We will continue to make efforts to prevent tension, armed confrontation, and worsening the situation. We believe that we will do this, as we did before.