MIDDLE EAST

Iraq, Turkey mountains need to be cleared of terrorists

IRAQ, TURKEY MOUNTAINS NEED TO BE CLEARED OF TERRORISTS

Turkish and Iraqi mountains need to be cleared of terrorists, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari in capital Baghdad, Çavuşoğlu said it was important that Iraq clears Daesh terrorist group.

"But it is equally important to wipe out all terrorist groups from Iraq," he said.

"Daesh, PKK, YPG, KCK, PJAK are all different terrorist groups but with same ideology. They want to divide Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran."

Çavuşoğlu said just like Turkey's ongoing Operation Olive Branch will wipe out terrorists in Syria's Afrin, terrorists "are also needed to be cleared from Iraqi, Turkish mountains".

The foreign minister said Turkey will give Iraq "all the support it needs" to clear PYD/PKK.

The operation -- aimed at eliminating PYD/PKK and Daesh elements from Syria's Afrin -- was launched at 5 p.m. (GMT1400) on Saturday. It was being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, the military added.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.

The Turkish cities of Kilis and Hatay across the Syrian border are within the firing range of the PYD/PKK group from Afrin, which sits atop a hill. The terror group has also used Amanos Mountains to penetrate from Syria into Turkey.

The PYD/PKK depends on Afrin to connect to the Mediterranean from northwestern Syria. The terrorist organization has also threatened the gains made from Operations Euphrates Shield and Idlib de-escalation zone over Afrin. A quarter of Syria land and 65 percent of Turkey-Syria border are currently under occupation of the terrorist organization.

Operation Euphrates Shield began in August 2016 and ended in late March 2017 to improve security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border.

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