ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backtracked Thursday on his earlier declaration of overthrowing the regime of his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad.
"Let nobody has doubts, let nobody interpret otherwise what we have many times said on this issue, that the goal of the Operation Euphrates Shield is not a country or a person, but terror groups," said Erdogan.
He was speaking in his 30th meeting since last year with another group of several hundred heads of neighborhoods (mukhtars) at his Bestepe Palace in Ankara, according to the private-owned Dogan news agency.
"We entered Syria for nothing but to end the rulership of the tyrant Assad who is waging state terrorism," Erdogan stated on Tuesday.
Turkish President's swift change of tone followed a Wednesday night phone call with Assad's main backer Vladimir Putin of Russia.
It was the second phone conversation between the two since Erdogan said his army was in northern Syrian to topple Assad as a bloody regime siege supported by Russians and Iranians on Aleppo made sizeable advances against the rebels.
"It is a very serious statement and one which differs from previous ones and with our understanding of the situation. We hope that our Turkish partners will provide us with some kind of explanation about this," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Reuters.
Turkey launched its Syria incursion in late August after restoring ties with Russia, officially apologizing for its shootdown of one of the latter's warplanes last year that killed a marine and a pilot.
Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Tuesday if it was not because of the "positive developments" of the Turkish Army in their support, the Islamist Free Syrian Army (FSA) Units could not have acted easily in their offensive against the Islamic State (IS) groups and Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey's leaders have repeatedly vowed not to let the US-backed Kurdish forces gain more ground against the IS in a bid to link the self-declared canton of Kobani with Afrin, west of the River Euphrates.
In the Mediterranean city of Antalya meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied any responsibility his country's army or that of the Syrian regime with the last week killing of four Turkish troops in an airstrike near the IS-held town of al-Bab, northern Aleppo.
Lavrov was meeting with Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkish General Staff blamed the attack which also saw five troops wounded on the Syrian Air Force.
Editing by Ava Homa