Erdogan says Turkey not looking to take Syrian territory

Erdogan says Turkey not looking to take Syrian territory


Ankara: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey was not looking to seize any Syrian territory despite stepping up its attacks against Kurdish forces in the war-torn country s north.

Erdogan’s comments came days after a Turkish airstrike on a border post run by Syrian government forces reportedly killed 17 fighters.

Some border posts in Syria and Kurds run by regime forces were killed in the Turkish attack, a war monitor said.

Three government soldiers were killed, Syria’s official news agency said.

Turkey said it was responding to an attack on positions along the border that killed two soldiers.

The exchange of fire marked one of the biggest escalations since attacks in Ankara and Damascus in 2020.

Erdogan appeared to be trying to calm tensions when he made comments to reporters on a return flight after his first wartime visit to Ukraine.

“We do not have eyes on the territory of Syria because the people of Syria are our brothers,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.

“The regime must be aware of this.”

Erdogan s visit to Ukraine came two weeks after he flew to Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that also covered Syria.

Putin s support was instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad survive an 11-year conflict against rebel groups backed in part by Turkey.

Erdogan said he told Putin that he wanted to cooperate more closely with Russia in northern Syrian regions where Ankara has been targeting Kurds it views as “terrorists”.

“We are in contact with Russia on every step that we take in Syria,” Erdogan said.

The border clash came with fears mounting that Turkey may be preparing to launch its fourth cross-border offensive against Kurdish forces since 2016.

Erdogan accuses the Kurdish fighters in Syria — allied with the United States against Islamic State jihadists — as outlawed militants with links to groups waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He reiterated his slogan on Friday that Turkish troops could attack Syrian Kurds “suddenly in one night”.

But he also suggested that Turkey may be open to accusations by Assad after its strong opposition to the Assad regime.

“There should be no resentment in politics,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

He noted that Turkey has reconciled over the past few years with erstwhile rivals Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

“We need to ensure further steps are taken with Syria,” he said, without fully explaining what those steps might involve.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sparked protests last week in northern Syria controlled by Ankara, calling for a “reconciliation” between the rebel group he supports and Assad.

He also revealed that last year he had his first brief meeting with the Syrian foreign minister since 2011.

“You should always be calm,” Erdogan said Friday. “You should have the opportunity to meet at any time.”

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