Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has warned troops in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad to be prepared for any situation, stating that Turkey's Operation Peace Spring is not officially over yet and that the country's job in Syria is not complete.
Visiting the Turkish military's directing and operational point in south-eastern Sanliurfa province near the Syrian border yesterday with Chief of Staff Yasar Guler and Land Forces Commander General Umit Dundar, Akar spoke to the soldiers through a transmitter to check on their situation.
Akar stressed upon the necessity for strongly maintained defence and security in the area in order for the Turkish armed forces to preserve peace and stability, and emphasised the importance of Turkey's alleged goal to protect the liberty and rights of the Syrian people.
"We do not only work to protect the rights and interests of our country," Akar stated, "but we also work day and night to make sure that our Syrian brothers and sisters safely and voluntarily return to their homes."
He also reassured that Turkey's sole aim in north-eastern Syria is to secure the region by pushing back the Kurdish militias from the Turkish-Syrian border and establishing a safe zone to house around two million Syrian refugees on a voluntary basis, adding that Turkey only aims to fight terrorism and that "we have no business in the ethnic or religious background of anyone. We are extremely sensitive in this regard."
Akar's statement and warning comes after a deal was struck last week between Turkey and Russia, halting Ankara's military operation and establishing an agreement regarding the fate of the so called "safe zone" and the methods with which it would be established. Its terms, which some have called a success for Turkey, enabled Russian military police and Syrian regime border guards to enter parts of the planned safe zone to "facilitate the removal of YPG elements and weapons to the depth of 30 km."
Following that process, joint Turkish-Russian patrols were then to be conducted in the east and west of the safe zone areas up to a depth of ten kilometres, apart from the city of Qamishli, while elements of the Kurdish YPG militia were to be removed from the strategic towns of Manbij and Tal Rifat. The remaining terms were largely vague and consisted of general statements such as that of a "joint monitoring and verification mechanism" being established to oversee and implement the deal while working together to find a long-lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict.
Yesterday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also threatened to expand and widen the safe zone to an area larger than its planned 30 kilometre if its armed forces are attacked in any way by the YPG and other Kurdish militias.