Turkey will maintain its military presence in northern Syria “until the people are free,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday, blasting the “so-called” parliamentary vote in the war-torn country.
Turkey has launched three military incursions into northern Syria since 2016 to battle the Islamic State group and Kurdish militia deemed by Ankara as “terrorists”.
“We will continue to stay in this country until our thousand-year neighbour and brother, the Syrian people, reach freedom, peace and security,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the capital Ankara.
Since the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey has militarily backed rebel groups seeking his ouster.
Erdogan also slammed Sunday s “so-called” legislative polls in Syria.
“In these days, they are holding elections in Syria, so-called elections,” he said.
“Can there be such elections? Where are the countries that claim to be democratically advanced?”
The election in Syria comes at a critical phase for the Damascus government, which has reconquered much of the territory lost at the beginning of the country s war. The millions of Syrians who fled the conflict were not eligible to vote.
Erdogan also said Turkey “closely followed” the situation in another conflict-struck country Libya where Ankara backs the Government of National Accord (GNA) against rival commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates with which Turkey has strained ties, as well as by Russia.
In a sign of further tensions, the Egyptian parliament approved Monday a possible military intervention in Libya if forces loyal to the Tripoli government continued their advance towards the east of the country.
“We have pushed back the putschists that threaten Tripoli,” Erdogan said. “Let nobody have aspirations, we will not allow it.”