Turkey will complete its southern security line, says Erdoğan

Turkey has already disrupted the “terrorist corridor” at its southern border with past military operations, and will improve security along that line with new ones, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told members of his party on Saturday.

“With Operation Claw-Lock we launched in April we have already disrupted the terrorist corridor attempted along our southern border,” Erdoğan said, referring to the Kurdish-controlled areas in north and east Syria. “We are meticulously working to complete the weaker parts of our security line with new operations, and to prepare our land, sea and air forces for any and all missions.”

Turkey is preparing for a new incursion into northern Syria’s Manbij and Tel Rifaat towns, where U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish forces remain in control with support from Russia as per an agreement with the Syrian regime. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the number of troops in the region has drastically reduced.

Ankara maintains Syrian Kurdish groups, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Unity Party (PYD) are offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been involved in a bloody conflict with Turkey for some four decades. Turkey considers all of the organisations to be terrorist, while many of its NATO allies support the YPG while banning the PKK.

The president spoke at a consultation meeting for the top cadres of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), reiterating his position regarding the NATO bids of Sweden and Finland and accusing Turkey’s opposition of supporting terrorism.

“The whole world must know that NATO is not an organisation to ensure security for terrorism. Right now, terrorist organisations roam free in Finland and Sweden,” Erdoğan said.

Police in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Netherlands and others protect those who hold demonstrations in support of terrorist organisations, the president said.

“While all these campaigns are in motion against Turkey, while our neighbour Greece allows for nine U.S. bases to be established on its territory, and while again in Greece terrorist organisations roam free, nobody should expect us to fall for the same mistake again,” Erdoğan said.

In 1980, Turkey agreed to not veto Greece’s appeal to re-join the alliance after leaving NATO’s military integration in 1974 over Turkey’s excursion to northern Cyprus. Erdoğan has repeatedly said over the past week that this had been a mistake for the military junta that was in power at the time in Turkey.

Ankara demands stricter crackdown on groups it considers to be terrorist from the two Nordic countries, and has submitted a list of extradition demands for persons who have sought asylum there.

Erdoğan also targeted Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in his speech, saying the main opposition leader was picking and choosing between terrorist organisations, and telling on Turkey to foreign powers.

Erdoğan accused Kılıçdaroğlu of evading his questions on whether his Republican People’s Party (CHP) supported Turkey’s cross-border operations against PKK and YPG, or whether he believed the government’s policies regarding Sweden and Finland were appropriate.

There are terror supporters within the CHP, Erdoğan said. The president later accused Kılıçdaroğlu of supporting the Gezi Park Protests, which he called “an ambush against Turkish democracy” and “an attempt of the rampant minority to intimidate the silent majority”.

The 2013 protests, named after the small urban park they started in, saw more than four million citizens take to the streets in 80 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces against Erdoğan’s government and Turkey’s accelerating slide into authoritarianism.

In late April, a court in Istanbul convicted eight people, including philanthropist Osman Kavala, to decades in prison for having organised and funded the protests, which Erdoğan considers to be the first link in a chain of events against his rule.

The president defended his previous comments that participants in the Gezi protests were “rotten tramps”, saying the description was “appropriate”.

“We speak the language of our nation. We call these vandals what our nation call them,” Erdoğan said.

Protesters “disrespected our sacred values”, Erdoğan said, referring to his nine-year-old claim that Gezi protesters had entered a mosque to drink beer inside, which he has never substantiated. The president also called the protesters “vandals and traitors”.

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