Turkey "has no sights" on Syrian territory, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been threatening a new offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish groups since May.
“We have no sights on the territory of Syria (…) The [Damascus] regime must be aware of this,” he told reporters on his return flight from Ukraine. reported on Friday by Turkish media.
Thirteen civilians have died since Thursday evening in northern Syria, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurds and supported by the regime, are now clashing with the Turks and their local auxiliaries, an NGO reported on Friday.
These victims were mowed down in two separate incidents, one in al-Bab, under the control of Syrian factions loyal to Ankara northeast of Aleppo, and the other near Hassakeh in the northeast of the country, held by the SDS.
Ankara wants a safe zone
The Turkish president reaffirmed that the army of Ankara - present in areas of northern Syrian territory bordering Turkey - was "ready" at any time for a new offensive.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Turkish army launched three major operations in northern Syria targeting Kurdish militias and organizations.
Ankara says it wants to create a 30 kilometer "security zone" on its southern border.
On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH) reported that seventeen people had been killed in Turkish airstrikes on a position held by the Syrian regime near the Turkish border, after night clashes between Ankara forces and Kurdish fighters.
Turkey on the offensive
The official Syrian news agency Sana confirmed the death of at least three Syrian soldiers in these strikes.
The Turkish head of state, however, said he wanted to "take new steps" with the Damascus regime, judging that an improvement in relations between the two countries would contribute to peace in the region.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria, Turkey has fiercely opposed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, posing as an unwavering support for Syrian rebel groups.
Turkey, through its Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu, has however pleaded twice since last Thursday to "reconcile" the opposition and the regime in Syria, marking a shift in its position vis-à-vis Damascus. .
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan