– Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield will continue towards northern Syria’s al-Bab city, some 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Turkish border, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday, according to Anadolu Agency.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Operation Euphrates Shield against Daesh was proceeding well with land and air attacks.
“They [Free Syrian Army] have gained major successes in northern Syria and life is getting back to normal there. That’s what we want to see in Syria,” he said.
He said the village of Dabiq in Syria was cleared of Daesh as part of the operation. “The target is to continue towards al-Bab and liberate Manbij area completely from Daesh terrorists,” the foreign minister said.
Dabiq, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Aleppo and around 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Syria’s border with Turkey, has a symbolic importance for Daesh, as the group believes it will be the site of an end-times battle with non-Muslims. Dabiq is also the name of one of Daesh’s online magazines.
Cavusoglu also said the much anticipated Mosul operation had not started yet, but it was expected to start soon. He said the operation should be launched by the Iraqi army with local forces, not with Shia militias.
“Mosul’s Sunni Muslim population should not be forced to choose between Daesh and Shia militias…why should people in Mosul have to choose between two evils?” he asked.
Turkey remains against any sectarianism in the region and is ready to give all its support in such a fight, Cavusoglu added.
In mid-2014, the Daesh terrorist group captured the northern city of Mosul and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.
Recent months have seen the army, backed by a 60-nation air coalition led by the U.S., retake much territory. Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.
The Iraqi army and its allies are now gradually advancing on Mosul, which officials in Baghdad have vowed to “liberate” by year’s end.
However, Turkey has been locked in a row with Iraqi authorities over who should participate in the U.S.-led offensive in Mosul, which is expected to start soon.
Ankara fears the participation of Shia militias in the Mosul offensive will stoke sectarian tension and trigger an exodus of refugees.
According to the UN, more than 3.4 million people are now displaced in Iraq — more than half of them children — while more than 10 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.