A new Turkish ground operation in north Syria is still an option on the table considering the level of threat Turkey faces, Turkish presidency spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Saturday, the Voice of America reported.
“We want security on our borders. We target neither the interests of the Syrian regime nor Syrian civilians,” Kalın said during a meeting with representatives of the foreign press in Ankara.
Kalın’s comments followed those of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who said on Friday that a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus should aim at ending Turkey’s occupation in north Syria.
Kalın also announced that the defence ministers of the two countries will meet for a second time, ahead of a meeting between the foreign ministers expected to be held in mid-February.
But the Syrian foreign minister said on Saturday that full normal relations between the two countries could only be possible if Turkey withdrew its troops from Syria.
The first high-level talks between the two neighbours took place in Moscow in December as a result of efforts by Russia to broker a rapprochement.
Turkey has launched several military incursions into Syria since 2018, claiming that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as being linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), pose a threat to its national security.
In November Turkey launched airstrikes against the YPG in northeast Syria, after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul which Turkey claims was organised by Kurdish armed groups.