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Turkey Says It Will Keep Military Presence In Syria

The Turkish Army says it will keep a military presence in Syria to prevent any "unwanted formation" and ensure stability in the region.

The statement on March 31 comes two days after Turkey announced it was ending its Euphrates Shield military campaign near the Turkish border in northern Syria.

It said that phase of its operation against Islamic State (IS) militants and "terrorists" in the region was "successfully completed," but it did not rule out a new military campaign inside Syria under a different mission name.

"We are continuing our operations to protect our national security, prevent any unwanted formation, allow our displaced Syrian siblings to return to their country, and maintain security and stability in the region," the military said on March 31.

Turkey launched Euphrates Shield last August, with troops, tanks, and warplanes backing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels battling to push IS extremists away from the Turkish border region.

FSA troops have also been fighting Syrian Kurdish fighters that Ankara says are "terrorists."

The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 when protests broke out against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Since then, more than 300,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced by fighting that has created one of the largest migrant crises in Europe since World War II.

Turkey and the United States have been supporting various factions fighting Assad's government, while Russia and Iran back Assad.

IS fighters have also entered the war and are opposed by both sides.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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