Turkey has no plans for demographic change in northeastern Syria, and both Arabs and Kurds would be able to return to their home once the region will be cleared of the terrorists, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday.
“If you look at our previous military operations against Daesh or PKK, we have never changed the demographic composition of the population,” Kalin told German media, referring to Turkey’s previous anti-terror operations between 2016 and 2018 in northwestern Syria.
“Arabs have returned to their villages, and Kurds have returned to theirs. And we have not sent anyone back to Syria against their will. In the past four or five years, we have provided help to Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. We are currently hosting nearly four million of them,” he said, in an exclusive interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, and Operation Olive Branch in 2018 had cleared a vast area in northwestern Syria of the terrorist groups Daesh and YPG/PKK, allowing some 365,000 Syrian refugees to return to their home.
Kalin underlined that Turkey’s latest military action Operation Peace Spring was not launched against Kurds, but aimed at clearing the northeastern part of Syria of the terrorist groups.
“The Europeans should be grateful to us,” he stressed, adding that Turkey’s anti-terror operations, and its military deployment for ceasefire in Idlib, would strengthen security and stability in northern Syria, and also facilitate efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
He criticized European countries that claimed Turkish military operation was not in conformity with international law and moved to restrict arms sales to Turkey.
"Our European friends and allies are completely wrong on this matter. An arms embargo would not stop Turkey's fight against terrorism. Indeed, they should be more supportive to us," he said.
Operation Peace Spring
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northeastern Syria, to create the conditions for the safe return of Syrian refugees to the region and to ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
After strong opposition by the U.S. administration to the operation, Ankara and Washington reached a deal on Oct. 17 to pause the operation for 120 hours to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned safe zone.
Turkey has long criticized the U.S. for its support to the YPG/PKK in fight against Daesh in the region, stressing that “one cannot rely on a terrorist organization while fighting another terrorist group”.
Ankara wants to clear northern Syria of both Daesh and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.