President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the Turkish military could launch an instant overnight operation east of the Euphrates River in Syria, territory under the control of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of the banned militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while speaking at the opening of the legislative year in parliament on Oct. 1.
“In particular we were not able to achieve the results we wanted east of the Euphrates [in Syria]. At this point Turkey no longer has one more day to lose regarding this issue. We have no choice but to continue on our own path. There is no question that this will be difficult,” Erdoğan said.
Ankara has been keen to rid the area of the YPG, who have been supported with military aid and troops on the ground from the US, as it expelled ISIS from the region. But Turkey considers the group to be no different than the PKK, with which fought security forces within Turkey for several decades, resulting in thousands of casualties.
Safe zone and refugees in Turkey
Erdoğan has expressed his demand that the US and Turkey create a safe zone in northeastern Syria, where he said between 1-2 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey could be resettled.
“The people that we have hosted for nearly eight years already have a homeland. What is left to us is to create a safe climate where they can continue their lives in their own country,” Erdoğan said about the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“Since the crisis in Syria has been extensive, we are certainly aware of the economic, social and cultural tests that the 3.65 million guests living in our country have caused. We are also aware that no other country apart from Turkey has shouldered such a burden and managed it for such a long ti me. Nevertheless, we are not thinking about hosting millions of refugees in our country forever,” Erdoğan said.
The Syrian refugee this year has become one of the most critical political issues, with most of the country harboring an unfavorable view about the refugees and desiring that they return to their country. In the midst of a weakened economy, Syrians are often the scapegoats for issues such as unemployment, as many Syrians work under the table for much lower wages. There are widespread falsehoods that are commonly believed in Turkey about Syrians, including the belief that they receive payments from the Turkish government, can enter universities in Turkey without taking the entrance exam, and that Syrian business owners do not pay taxes.
Notably absent at the opening of parliament were far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and right-wing Good Party (İP) leader Meral Akşener, both of whom reportedly were dealing with health-related issues.