ANKARA, October 23. /TASS/. The end of the operation Peace Spring does not mean that Turkey will leave Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a meeting with the editors of the Anadolu news agency, adding that Ankara would continue to protect the status quo in the region.
"In accordance with our agreements with the United States and Russia and after receiving corresponding guarantees we ended the operation Peace Spring. But that does not mean that we are leaving. We will retain our presence there. This is stated in our agreements with Russia and the United States," Cavusoglu said, adding that the Turkish forces would continue to wipe out terrorists’ pockets of resistance, if any of them remained in the zone of the operation.
"The Sochi memorandum says that the current state of affairs will remain on the territories from Tell Abyad to Ras al-Ayn to a depth of 30 kilometers. No deadlines have been established. Also, we need to create a security zone," he said. Cavusoglu added that further work would be focused on creating conditions for the return of refugees to northern Syria. "The territory must be cleared of terrorist hideouts, caches and booby-trap mines," he stated.
Cavusoglu promised that Turkey would be operating together with the Syrian National Army (forces of Syria’s armed opposition), Turkey’s emergencies directorate and the Red Crescent.
"Both Russia and the United States have recognized as legal our concerns regarding the situation in northern Syria and the legality of the Peace Spring operation. Turkey agreed on settling the security zone issue with two world powers," Cavusoglu said. He added that he had received written notifications from the United States of the pullout of Kurdish forces from the zone of the operation between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, too, confirmed this in a telephone conversation, he noted.
Turkey not against Kurds forming part of Syria’s local government
Ankara is not against Syrian Kurds forming part of local government bodies in northern Syria, the Turkish foreign minister told the meeting with the editors of the Anadolu Agency.
"Local population will govern in the security zone [in northern Syria]. Arabs will do it in the areas where [there] are more Arabs. In the areas where many of our Kurdish brothers live, they will govern. We have no objections in this area. The most important thing is that all terrorists [Turkey’s broad label of Kurdish armed formations — TASS] leave the region," he explained.
"Over 80% of the population are Arabs; there are also Christians and other groups. Those who prevail in certain areas will form part of the local government," Cavusoglu concluded, noting that such an approach "will greatly benefit Syria and its future."
On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Sochi to agree on a memorandum on joint actions to bring about a settlement in northern Syria. Under the arrangement the Russian military police and Syrian military are to be moved into the areas bordering the zone of Turkey’s operation in Syria as of noon of October 23. The Kurdish forces will have 150 hours to vacate the 30-kilometer wide strip of land along the Turkish border. After that Russian and Turkish forces will begin joint patrols.
On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the aim to establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Ankara’s incursion into Syria has triggered an outcry in the region and across the world.