By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet</p> <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's president said Thursday that to protect Syria’s territorial integrity, the terrorist PYD/YPG must be swept away from areas where it persists near the Turkish border.</p> <p>"Syria's territorial integrity will not be ensured unless the PYD/YPG terror group is cleared away from Manbij, [and] east of the Euphrates," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, ahead of their trilateral meeting with their Iranian counterpart.</p> <p>In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- recognized as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG/PYD is the group's Syrian branch.
Turkey has promised a counter-terrorist operation against the PYD/PYG in Syria, following two similar successful operations since 2016.
Erdogan also said Turkey welcomes Russia's positive attitude towards a proposed safe zone in northern Syria, adding that Turkey also supports the idea as long as it serves to address Turkey's national security concerns.
He said they may soon conclude the formation of Syrian constitutional committee, taking into account reservations expressed by the UN.
"It is very important that the cooperation which took place regarding the use of airspace in Idlib also takes place in Afrin and the area [liberated by] Operation Euphrates Shield — one of the previous counter-terror operations –," Erdogan added.
– Idlib violations
After a meeting in Sochi last September between Erdogan and Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
The following month saw all heavy weapons withdrawn from the de-escalation zone by Syrian opposition and anti-regime groups.
But according to the Syrian White Helmets civil defense group, at least 30 people in Idlib were killed in January, including women and children, while another 180 were injured — in Idlib, Hama and Latakia — by regime drone attacks and artillery fire.
Last month also saw the regime targeting Idlib’s southeastern countryside, along with rural parts of the Aleppo, Latakia and Hama provinces.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.