Parts of northern Syria to become ‘safe zone’: Turkish FM

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the announcement as Turkey launched a third wave of attacks on ISIL militants and also the Kurdish PKK.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a press conference in Ankara on July 25. AFP Photo
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ANKARA // Swathes of northern Syria cleared of ISIL militants will become a “safe zone”, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Saturday, after Turkish warplanes pounded militant positions in a series of strikes.

“When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the (ISIL) threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference.

“We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones.”

Meanwhile, Turkish forces unleashed a third wave of air strikes and ground attacks on ISIL targets in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

“We have given instructions for a third series of strikes in Syria and Iraq. Air and ground operations are under way,” Mr Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“No one should doubt out determination,” he added. “We will not allow Turkey to be turned into a lawless country.”

Turkey had early on Saturday carried out a second wave of the air strikes it says are aimed at extinguishing terror threats, this time hitting not just ISIL targets in Syria but also Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq.

Its ground forces had also carried out artillery strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq and ISIL targets in Syria.

Mr Davutoglu said he had earlier Saturday spoken to Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region in northern Iraq, to explain the attacks on the PKK.

He said that Mr Barzani had agreed Turkey had a right to undertake an operation against the PKK and had expressed his “solidarity”.

Mr Davutoglu said a total 590 suspected members of IS, PKK and other militant groups had also been arrested in raids across Turkey that began on Friday morning and continued Saturday.

He said they were being held in custody on the grounds of links to terror groups and presenting a threat to the state.

* Reuters, Agence France-Presse