ANKARA, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) –Turkey said Friday that a ground offensive in Syria is not “binding” and prepared, apparently backing out from a possible unilateral intervention into Syria that it might have considered several weeks ago.
“We have not made any binding statement with regard to a ground offensive and have no such preparations,” Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for the Turkish presidency told reporters at a press briefing on Friday.
He added that Turkey has no plans for a ground incursion into Syria either unilaterally or in partnership with Saudi Arabia.
Turkey’s possible incursion into Syria was first raised by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Feb. 14, when he was quoted by two pro-government dailies as saying that “If there is a strategy against the Islamic State (IS), then Turkey and Saudi Arabia could enter into a ground operation.”
His remarks came amid mounting concerns in Ankara over the gains made by forces of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border.
Ankara remains concerned over the prospect of an emerging autonomous or independent Kurdish state in Syrian territories close to the Turkish border.
The Turkish government vowed to not allow Kurdish forces to change demographic structure in the areas, as the Turkish military has shelled positions of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an armed faction of the PYD.
Turkish leaders, including the president and the prime minister, all warned about unspecified Turkish actions in Syria to prevent threats against its own national security.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu retracted his earlier quotes some two weeks ago, saying that a ground operation in Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia is not on the table.
He emphasized that any such move would need to involve all countries in the U.S.-led coalition against the IS.
In the meantime, four Saudi Arabian F-15 warplanes arrived at Turkey’s Incirlik base in Adana province in southern Turkey on Friday to partake in anti-IS campaigns in Syria. Some 30 Saudi Air Force personnel and military equipment were also deployed to the base.
The private Cihan news agency on Friday dispatched photographs of four jets landing and later parking at the base.
The deployment marks the first time that Saudi warplanes have been sent to a Turkish base for military operations.
“Because Ankara and Riyadh have climbed back from their earlier hints of a military operation, Turkey’s options look bleak,” Suat Kiniklioglu, the executive director of Ankara-based Center for Strategic Communication, said.
“The only remaining option seems to increase Turkish support for the opposition through Turkish territory,” he noted.
Abdulbaki Erdogmus, a representative of the Civil Political Platform and a former lawmaker, said an intervention into Syria will escalate the conflict and deepen sectarian clashes in Syria.
“Both during and in the aftermath of such intervention, not only Syria but we will all lose,” he warned, urging the Turkish government to drop military option in favor of political settlement.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that the cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria, which begins on Saturday, will not be binding for Turkey if the country’s security is threatened.
“Everyone should understand that this cease-fire is valid for Syria, for the parties fighting against each other in Syria. When one party poses a threat to Turkey, and Turkey’s security is under threat, this cease-fire is not binding for us,” he remarked.
The U.S.-and-Russia-engineered cease-fire does not cover the IS, the Nusra Front, or any other militia designated as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council.
Turkey’s opposition parties have all said that they are opposed to a military intervention into Syria, while Turkey’s NATO allies urged Turkey to refrain actions that may escalate tension in the region.
Bulent Kenes, a foreign policy analyst, said the government’s what he called “adventurous strategy of changing the regime of a neighboring country” has cost for Turkey.
Stressing that this policy remains in stark contrast to traditional Turkish foreign policy, Kenes warned that the current policy “has started to threaten the country’s domestic security, territorial integrity, national unity, social peace and economy.”