Border operations are a necessity, Turkish National Security Council says

Current and future Turkish military operations on its southern borders do not target neighbours’ sovereignty but are necessary for Turkey’s security, the country’s National Security Council said on Thursday.

The council issued the statement following a three-hour meeting led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, T24 news site reported.

Erdoğan on Monday threatened to launch a new military operation in Syria as part of an effort to secure his country’s southern border to resume efforts to create a 30-kilometer (20 mile) safe zone along the country’s border with the neighbouring war-torn country.

Turkey’s military operations in no way threaten the sovereignty of neighbouring countries, the National Security Council statement added.

Since August 2016, Turkey has launched three military operations in northern Syria directed at the Islamic State group and Kurdish militia group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish autonomous rights in Turkey for almost four decades. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The Turkish military last month also began an operation into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, launching an air and ground offensive targeting the PKK.  The Turkish military regularly targets PKK bases in Iraq.

The council’s statement also called for a ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine war that respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Cumhuriyet said.

The statement also highlighted Greece’s “provocative acts’’ in the Aegean Sea, while stressing Ankara’s determination to uphold the rights and maintain the interests of the Turkish nation, the newspaper said.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urged Greece to withdraw its military from the Aegean islands, saying Turkey would “take matters further,” if Athens failed to do so.

Ankara has called on neighbouring Greece to demilitarize the Aegean islands in line with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, claiming the failure of Athens to do so brings their sovereignty into question. Athens has rejected Ankara’s demands on the islands near Turkey’s coast, citing Greece’s right to defend itself and its national sovereignty.

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