Turkish forces will remain in Syria for as long as it takes to cleanse the border of ISIS and other militants, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday, after a truck bombing by Kurdish insurgents killed at least 11 police officers.
The suicide attack at a police headquarters in a province bordering Syria and Iraq came two days after Turkey launched its first major military incursion into Syria, an operation meant to drive ISIS out of the border area and stop Kurdish militias from seizing ground in their wake.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile tried on Friday at a meeting in Geneva to finalize an agreement on fighting extremist militants in Syria. Such a deal could in theory pave the way for a political transition to end the five-year conflict.
Turkey, a NATO member and part of the U.S.-led coalition against hardline militants, has seen a series of deadly bombings this year blamed on extremists. But it also fears Kurdish militias in Syria will seize a swathe of border territory and embolden Kurdish insurgents on its own soil.
President Tayyip Erdogan said the bombing in Sirnak province would increase Turkey’s determination as it fights terrorist groups at home and abroad.
Yildirim said there was no doubt the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, was responsible.
“From the beginning we have been defending Turkey’s territorial integrity. We are also defending Syria’s territorial integrity. The aim of these terrorist organizations is … to form a state in these countries… They will never succeed,” Yildirim told a news conference in Istanbul.