Turkey says military operations on southern borders needed for security


FILE PHOTO: A Turkish flag flutters on a military vehicle on the border of Manbij city, Syria November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's current and future military operations on its southern borders do not target its neighbours' sovereignty but are necessary for Turkish security, the country's National Security Council (MGK) said on Thursday.

The MGK statement followed President Tayyip Erdogan's declaration on Monday that Ankara would soon launch new military operations on its southern borders to expand 30-km (20-mile) deep safe zones and combat what he described as terrorist threats there.

"Operations being carried out now and in the future to remove the terrorism threat on our southern borders do not target our neighbours' territorial integrity and sovereignty in any way," it said after a three-hour meeting chaired by Erdogan.

Any operations were expected to target northern Syria, where Turkey has launched several incursions since 2016, mainly targeting the U.S.-backed Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG).

Ankara views the YPG as identical to the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that has been waging an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984. It designates both groups as terrorist organisations. The YPG are a key element of the Kurdish-led coalition which the United States largely relied on to fight Islamic State.

So far, there have been few signs of military movements that preceded Turkey's last four incursions into northern Syria.

Erdogan's talk of a military operation has also raised the stakes in Turkey's row with its NATO partners over Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, with Ankara accusing both of harbouring people linked to the PKK.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Paul Simao)

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