President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to continue Turkey’s military operations in Syria and “liberate Syrian lands” after claiming victory in presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
“These results show we will continue to liberate Syrian lands and open the way for our guests in our country to return home safely,” Erdogan said in an election victory speech on Monday, referring to the Syrian refugees.
Turkish troops and their allied militants seized Syria’s western enclave of Afrin in March before turning their attention to Manbij where the US has set up a military base to support the Kurdish militants who control the city.
Turkish authorities have indicated to move deeper into other areas inside Syria as part of Ankara’s purported campaign to secure borders with the Arab country.
Addressing supporters outside his ruling AK party headquarters in Ankara, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would act more decisively against terrorist organizations.
Turkey has been opening new military fronts in Syria. Earlier this year, it launched the ongoing “Olive Branch” offensive against purported positions of the US-backed YPG militants in Afrin.
Last Monday, Turkish troops reached the outskirts of Manbij after striking a deal with the US to remove Washington-backed Kurdish militants from the area.
Turkey began its military intervention in Syria without permission from the Syrian government.
On Sunday, President Bashar al-Assad said the Syrian army will regain control of the country’s north by force if US- and Turkey-backed militants there refuse to surrender.
Assad was speaking after Damascus said it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around Manbij, a day after soldiers of the two countries began patrolling the area.
“We have chosen two paths: the first and most important one is reconciliation… The second path is to attack terrorists if they don’t surrender and refuse to make peace,” Assad said in an interview with Russian television channel NTV.
“We will fight with them and return control by force. It is certainly not the best option for us, but it’s the only way to get control of the country,” said Assad, responding to a question about the northern part of Syria where militant groups backed by Turkey hold some territory.