Turkish president says operations in Idlib -- currently being carried out by Free Syrian Army -- will continue.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted at further steps to secure Syria's western Idlib province, clarifying that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is currently engaged in operations there while Turkish soldiers are “not there yet”.
Speaking in the Aegean province of Afyonkarahisar Saturday, Erdogan said: “Currently, the Free Syrian Army [FSA] is conducting the operations, Turkish soldiers are not there yet."
"We intend to further enhance our steps in providing safety to Idlib now. There is a serious operation in Idlib today and it is going to continue."
He also affirmed Turkey's support for people escaping Syria’s Aleppo, adding: "We will never allow a terror corridor along our Syria border."
The president said the operations in Idlib were being jointly held with Russia. "Turkey will be providing protection inside Idlib while the security beyond the borders of Idlib will be provided by Russia," he said.
"Interactions with the [Bashar al-Assad] regime is a process that Russia is conducting, as far as Turkey is concerned, we are taking measures and we will continue to take measures in other matters."
He said the action in Idlib was being taken to provide security to civilians there.
Barzani to be isolated
About the Sept. 25 illegitimate referendum in Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)-controlled areas in northern Iraq, he said: "We see the outcome of KRG that is only being supported by Israel -- as I perceive this matter -- as a cause-and-effect issue."
He reiterated that the KRG would “not be able gain any outcome" from the illegitimate poll. In a reference to northern Iraqi administration’s leader Masoud Barzani, he said: "You will return to your starting point and if you don't, you will be sentenced to isolation and lose all means of opportunities you had in your hands.
"We can see that in northern Iraq, Barzani has former French foreign minister on his right-hand side and has Bernard Henry-Levy, a Jewish figure, on his left-hand side... They are carrying out a Zionist plan on the table.
“We indeed very well know what is included in this plan but we will be very cautious... Neither Turkey, which is at your northern side, nor Iran, which is towards your east, or Syria on your west and the central administration in the south share any of your thoughts.
“The Iraqi Constitutional Court has made its verdict on you [the illegitimate KRG referendum] and the Iraqi parliament is saying No. So, what are you going to do?"
Erdogan also emphasized that Turkey was not going to allow an "operation" against the territorial integrity of its neighbors.
"Since we do not allow any operations against our own country, we will also not allow any operations against the territorial integrity of our neighbors. Because we have our brothers/sisters and cognates there."
Erdogan, who is also the chairman of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, was in Afyonkarahisar for the party's 26th consultation and assessment meeting.
About reports on resignation of long-time mayor of capital Ankara, Melih Gokcek, Erdogan said: "If a renewal is needed in some of our organizations, we then will do the renewals.
"If [for the renewal process] some of our mayors need to be reassigned with other duties or to take a break, then it will be done through mutual understanding. Thus, no one should take offence in this."