‘Our goal is to clear Syria border of terrorists,’ senior Erdogan adviser tells FRANCE 24
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Ibrahim Kalin, special adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tells FRANCE 24 that Turkish troops are making every effort to protect civilians as they push into northern Syria to force Kurdish forces from along the border area.
Over the past several days, Turkey’s army and its allies have pushed their way into northern Syrian towns and villages, clashing with Kurdish fighters over a stretch of 200 kilometres (125 miles). The offensive has displaced up to 160,000 people, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
“We make sure civilians are not attacked and we also make sure that all minorities, including the Christians, are protected,” Kalin said in an interview on Sunday, dismissing claims that Turkey and its allies are intent on clearing the area of its Kurdish population.
“We are not interested in occupying any part of Syria and we are not interested in changing the demographic structure of northeast Syria,” he added, instead accusing Kurdish forces of having forcefully moved Arab villages and towns.
The fast-deteriorating situation was set in motion when President Donald Trump ordered US troops in northern Syria to step aside, clearing the way for an attack by Turkey on the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Turkish offensive and US withdrawal have drawn an international outcry as the SDF were the main Western allies in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. Turkey, however, regards Kurdish elements in the SDF as terrorists.
“Our goal is to clear the border with Syria of all terrorist elements,” Kalin said, describing Syrian Kurdish forces as an offshoot of the PKK militant group that has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Erdogan’s special adviser dismissed reports on Sunday that Turkish shelling had allowed several hundred people to flee a Kurdish-run camp for displaced people that is home to relatives of IS group fighters, saying that the reports came from Kurdish sources and need to be “checked against the facts that [Turkey’s] army provides”.
Kalin also said Turkey was “investigating” reports that a Kurdish female politician and captured Kurdish fighters were executed by Turkish proxy forces, though adding that “such incidents are used to shed a cloud” over the operation. The US State Department has described the reports as “extremely troubling”.