Defense Minister Yaşar Güler has affirmed that Türkiye will not withdraw its military presence from Syria until a secure environment is established.
"We don't need anyone's land... But how can we leave when there are 4 million Syrians in our country, and 5 million in Idlib are in danger of turning into refugees at any moment? Can we leave there without a security environment?" Güler told daily Milliyet on Sept. 21.
The Turkish army launched a trio of operations — Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019) — across the country’s border in northern Syria to “prevent the formation of a terror corridor” and “enable the peaceful settlement of residents.”
Güler further explained the rationale behind the operations, citing incidents where terrorists fired rockets at Turkish citizens and harassed them with light weapons.
Responding to calls for Türkiye to end its operations in Syria, Güler outlined the conditions for withdrawal, stating, "First, an [secure] environment will be created. The constitution, which the Syrian regime has to do at the moment, will be accepted and elections will be held. A government will be established, and it will embrace all the people here. After that, of course, we will be happy to do so."
Meanwhile, colonel Zeki Aktürk, the ministry's press and public relations consultant, reported that 42 terrorists had been neutralized in the past week during the operations in northern Syria and northern Iraq.
Aktürk also noted that a total of 1,271 terrorists had been neutralized since the beginning of the year and 38,614 terrorists since 2015.
Turkish military and officials use the term “neutralize” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered, were killed or captured.
In addition to discussing the situation in Syria, Güler expressed hope for long-term peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region following the first direct peace talks between Azerbaijan and separatists from the territory.
The separatists recently agreed to lay down their arms as part of a Russian-brokered ceasefire plan that halted Azerbaijan's 24-hour offensive to retake land at the center of decades of conflict.
"Especially if Armenia fulfills its duties properly and the articles in the peace agreement are implemented as soon as possible, an environment of complete peace and tranquility will be brought to the region," Güler remarked.