Türkiye’s foreign minister charged Friday that the United States and Russia have failed to meet promises to clear Syria’s border with Türkiye from Kurdish militants, forcing Ankara to intervene.
Speaking at the Mediterranean Dialogues forum in Rome, Italy, Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Türkiye was seeking reconciliation with Syria’s government to facilitate the return of refugees, cooperate in fighting extremists and end the conflict in Syria.
Cavusoglu’s comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed last month to launch a new land invasion of northern Syria to target militant Kurdish groups, following a Nov. 13 explosion in Istanbul that killed six people. The Turkish military has launched a barrage of airstrikes on suspected militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq in retaliation.
The Kurdish groups have denied involvement in the bombing and say Turkish strikes have killed civilians and are threatening the fight against the ISIS group.
“We reached an understanding with the United States and the Russian Federation,” Cavusoglu said. “They committed to push those terrorists further south from our border ... But since then, they haven’t met their commitments.”
He was referring to separate deals reached with Moscow and Washington in 2019, under which both agreed to push Syrian Kurdish fighters from a wide swath of territory south of Türkiye’s border.
“We need to continue our operation to clean these areas from terrorists and terrorist organizations,” the minister said.
Turkey has carried out a series of incursions into Syria since 2016 and already controls parts of northern Syria.
Both Moscow and Washington, which have forces in northern Syria, have voiced opposition to a possible new Turkish incursion.
Türkiye, which had once sought Syrian President Bashar Assad's removal from office and has strongly backed the opposition in the Syrian conflict, has more recently said it is open to dialogue and reconciliation with Damascus. Turkish and Syrian security officials have held a series of talks, Turkish officials say.
Cavusoglu said Türkiye needs to “engage” with Syria’s government for a “voluntary, safe and dignified return” of some of the 3.6 million Syrians that have found refuge in Türkiye.
“We need to also cooperate in our fight against terrorist organizations without any discrimination,” Cavusoglu said.
He added: “I hope the (Syrian) regime will understand this: Without such reconciliation, there will be no lasting peace and stability in the country.”