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Turkish minister says other military operations possible in Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik (file photo)

Turkey has not ruled out the possibility of yet another military intervention in war-torn Syria despite officially announcing the completion of a months-long offensive in the Arab country, claiming that the end of a military operation does not mean that “threats” against Ankara have been eliminated.

“When the need arises and a threat occurs against Turkey's security, Turkey will not hesitate to conduct other operations in order to eliminate this threat,” said Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik on Friday, two days after Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced the end of Turkey’s major military operation on Syrian soil.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh, but Damascus denounced the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.

“Therefore, the end of Operation Euphrates Shield does not mean the threats against Turkey are completely over,” Isik further told reporters in the eastern Black Sea province of Gumushane.

The Turkish minister also claimed that the operation had cleared 2,000 square kilometers from the presence of Daesh, adding that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD)’s “dream of merging cantons” in northern Syria had been crushed. Ankara has listed the PKK, and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD, as terrorist organizations.

“The operation is over, but what needs to be done will continue to be done,” Isik further said.

However, neither Yildirim nor Isik have elaborated on whether Turkish forces would be withdrawn from northern Syria.

This file photo taken on September 2, 2016 shows Turkish soldiers driving back to Turkey from the Syrian border town of Jarabulus. (Photo by AFP)

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, echoed Isik’s comments, saying Ankara would not remain “indifferent” to its security and would engage in similar military operations as long as threats persisted.

“We continue to have security measures in the area on the highest level. Turkey will continue its effective fight against terrorist organizations in this region, on the borders and other areas within the framework of both the UN Charter's Article 51 and our national security priorities,” Kalin added.

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