President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey was not looking to seize any Syrian territory despite stepping up its attacks against Kurdish forces in the war-torn country’s north.
Erdogan’s comments came days after a Turkish air strikes on a Syrian border post run by regime forces reportedly killed 17 fighters.
A war monitor reported that both Kurds who man some of the Syrian border posts and regime forces were killed in the Turkish raids.
The official Syrian news agency said three government soldiers were killed in the attack.
Turkey said it was responding to a strike on its own positions along the border that killed two soldiers.
Read more: Turkey ditches US amid invasion of Syria
The exchange of fire marked one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020.
Erdogan appeared to try and calm the tensions in comments to reporters on board his return flight from his first wartime visit to Ukraine.
“We do not have eyes on the territory of Syria because the people of Syria are our brothers,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.
Turkey’s endgame in Syria is an Erdogan-Assad handshake, by which:
1. 🇹🇷 recognizes Assad’s sovereignty over Syria, but “temporarily” keeps some Syrian territory -also taking over millions of Sunni Arabs unwanted by the Assad regime;
2. And Damascus re-ingests the YPG in return. https://t.co/7KjjvIErHE
— Soner Cagaptay (@SonerCagaptay) August 10, 2022
“The regime must be aware of this.”
Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine came two weeks after he flew to Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that also covered Syria.
Putin’s support was instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad survive an 11-year conflict against rebel groups backed in part by Turkey.
Erdogan said he told Putin that he wanted to cooperate more closely with Russia in northern Syrian regions where Ankara has been targeting Kurds it views as “terrorists”.
“We are in contact with Russia on every step that we take in Syria,” Erdogan said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk