Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied any territorial ambition in the military operation in Syria, calling the accusation an “insult” to him.
Speaking at a forum on Monday, Erdogan also criticised Ankara’s allies for not supporting what he calls a fight against “terrorists”.
“Turkey does not have an eye on any country’s territory … We consider such an accusation as the biggest insult directed to us,” he said in Istanbul.
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Ankara terms the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a rebellion inside Turkey since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
Ankara’s military action against Kurdish forces who played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group has drawn widespread international criticism and prompted some NATO countries to suspend new arms sales.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly voiced “serious concerns” over the military operation launched on October 9 to push Syrian Kurdish forces away from the Turkey-Syria border.
On Monday, Erdogan responded angrily to widespread criticism in the West of Turkey’s operation in northeast Syria.
“The whole of the West, sided with the terrorists and have attacked us – including NATO and European Union countries,” he said.
“I thought you were against terrorism and terrorists. What happened? Since when have you started to move in line with terror?”
The Syrian Kurdish groups were a key US ally in the fight against ISIL.
Last week, Turkey announced a 120-hour suspension of the offensive following a deal with US Vice President Mike Pence, under which Kurdish fighters were to withdraw to allow a “safe zone” to be set up along the border.
Earlier on Monday, Turkey’s foreign minister warned that his country will resume the military operation if Kurdish fighters did not withdraw from the region before the ceasefire deadline passed on Tuesday evening.
“We have 35 hours left. If they don’t withdraw, our operation will resume,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday in Istanbul. “This is also what we agreed with the Americans.”
Erdogan was to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.