Turkey’s leader president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has scorched NATO allies over their failure to support his “counter-terrorist” operation in the Kurdish-held Syrian region of Afrin, but expressed gratitude that they at least had no guts to openly oppose Ankara.
“Hey NATO where are you? We’re fighting so much. NATO, Turkey is not a NATO country? Where are you? You’ve invited NATO-member states to Afghanistan,” Erdogan said.
NATO members not only show no support towards Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch and would even openly oppose Ankara’s actions in Syria, but did not have the guts to do so, Erdogan claimed. The offensive against Kurdish militias in Syria’s region of Afrin was launched late in January. Turkey describes the militias as offshoots of the terrorist-labeled outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). So far, 3,213 “terrorists” have been killed during the operation, carried out by Turkish troops and affiliated Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants, Erdogan stated.
“In fact, they would openly oppose Turkey in Syria if they could. But seeing Turkey’s adamant position, they did not find [the] resolve to do so,” the president said.
The Turkish leader also reiterated his earlier statements, that his only goal in Syria was the “fight against terrorism.” When Ankara reaches it, the troops will be pulled out of the country, he stated.
“Turkey’s goal is not capture of the territories of the other states, but only elimination of the terrorism threat in the region. Turkey will fight terrorists anywhere they operate,” Erdogan said, once again promising new military operations in Syria, including in the areas held by the US-backed Kurdish-led militias.
Washington has repeatedly called upon Turkey to stop its “aggression” against the Afrin region, omitting the fact that the US-led coalition itself spent years in Syria without any invitation from the government or international approval. The recent UNSC resolution, which urged a 30-days Syria-wide ceasefire, has been also used to call upon Erdogan to halt the invasion.
Ankara has sent police special forces units to the northern Syrian region of Afrin in anticipation of a new phase of its campaign against the Kurdish militias. It also says the UN-backed ceasefire does not affect its operation.
The special forces units crossed into Syrian territory from the southern Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay, local media reported. The new forces are expected to hold villages taken by Turkish troops from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as well as to take part in urban combat as Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch apparently moves from the countryside to the major settlements.