Operation in northern Iraq, Syria not limited to air campaign: Turkish president

"First of all, this operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria is not an operation that was carried out with random thought by saying 'who would say what?' or 'how would that happen?'

"As we've said before if someone disturbs our country and lands, we will make them pay the price. So, there are terrorist organizations in our south that are planning many attacks or that carry out such attacks and pose a threat (to Türkiye)," Erdogan on Sunday told reporters on the presidential plane returning from his Qatar trip.

Erdogan's remarks came after Türkiye launched early Sunday the Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the terror group YPG/PKK that has illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on the Turkish soil.

"This is not limited to just an air operation," Erdogan stressed, adding that the relevant units will do their consultations and take steps accordingly.

Türkiye's air operation followed last Sunday's terror attack on Istanbul's crowded Istiklal Avenue that killed at least six people and left 81 injured.

The Turkish National Defense Ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Erdogan said nearly 70 aircraft, including armed drones, took part in the operation, and added that a total of 89 terror targets, including shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, and ammunition depots were destroyed.

"At this point, 45 terrorist targets at a depth of approximately 140 km (87 mi) in northern Iraq, and 44 targets at a depth of about 20 km (12 miles) in Syria were hit," he added.

Asked if Türkiye talked about this operation with Russia and the US, Erdogan said: "We have not had any conversations with (US President Joe) Biden or (Russian President Vladimir) Putin regarding this operation. However, both Biden and Putin already know that we can do such things in this region at any time."

Erdogan recalled the Sochi deal between Türkiye and Russia to remove YPG/PKK terrorists from northeastern Syria bordering Türkiye.

"They had the responsibility to clear the terrorists from the area. Unfortunately, even though we reminded them many times over and over, they did not do this.

"We said that we would not remain silent against this, and that we would take steps against the terrorists there if they could not do it," he said.

In this backdrop, Türkiye last Sunday hit 12 terrorist targets in Ayn al-Arab in northern Syria.

Türkiye is with the US in NATO, Erdogan also said, noting, however, that Washington has unfortunately sent thousands of equipment, ammunition, and weapons to the terror zones in Syria.

During his talks with Biden in Indonesia, Erdogan said: "I told him: 'We are together with you in NATO, we are two important allies. Since such a threat came to us from the south, you are putting us in trouble by giving the support to the terrorist organizations here. Of course, we cannot live with these problems. When necessary, we will have to give the necessary answer to them.' Of course, they can't say anything. We have done what is necessary at this point, we are doing it, and we will continue to do so."

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the terror group's Syrian offshoot.

Normalization process with Egypt

Erdogan briefly met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar which attracted great attention since the relations have been tense since 2013.

"We said that a process can begin. A step has been taken here to start such a process and we had the talks. It is my hope that we want to move the process -- that started with our ministers -- to a good point later, hopefully to the high-level meetings," Erdogan said.

The unity of the Turkish nation and the Egyptian people in the past is very important to Türkiye, Erdogan said, adding: "Why not again, why not start again? We gave a signal."

He added Türkiye expects Egypt to establish peace together against those who take a stand against them in the Mediterranean.

Diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Egypt are maintained at the level of charges d’affaires on both sides since Egypt's 2013 military coup which overthrew late President Mohammed Morsi.

Grain export deal

Erdogan said he also met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Qatar, where they briefly discussed the Black Sea grain export deal.

He reiterated Putin's offer of sending grain to the underdeveloped countries free-of-charge.

"We even made such a plan that we buy the wheat if necessary, turn it into flour in Türkiye, and then send it to underdeveloped countries," he added.

Last week, a landmark grain deal signed in Istanbul in July by Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine was extended for another 120 days allowing Ukraine to export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports.

Source: Anadolu Agency