CHP leader urges gov’t not to enter city center of Afrin
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has urged the government to refrain from pushing Turkish troops into Afrin’s city center to avoid military casualties, as the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continues to march toward populous locations of the district as part of “Operation Olive Branch.”
“I never approve an offensive into the center of Afrin because it shouldn’t be about capturing a city. Why have we entered the Afrin district [in the first place]? To eliminate terror organizations on our border,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently told daily Habertürk.
On Jan. 20 Turkey launched a military operation into the Afrin district of Syria against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Media reports said the YPG has been reinforcing their deployment in and around the populous Afrin center and are preparing to use civilians as human shields against the Turkish operations.
“There is no need to go deeper into Syria,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, recalling Turkey’s previous Operation Euphrates Shield that ended after al-Bab was liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in March 2017.
“It would be a sin and a pity if we lose more of our soldiers in the war,” he added.
The CHP leader said the government should establish a “security belt” in the Afrin district in which it could work to prepare the ground for the return of Syrians.
“But going deeper would be a serious problem for Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Turkey should adopt a policy of establishing “security belts” wherever its borders are not fully secure, he added, while repeating his calls to engage with all main actors in Syria while doing so.
Kılıçdaroğlu on Jan. 29 called on the Turkish government to engage with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria to establish dialogue between the two countries. Ankara had cut off political ties with Damascus in late 2011 after al-Assad opted to harshly crack down on opposition groups through military means.
Gov’t slams CHP leader
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, meanwhile slammed the CHP leader over his call on the government to not allow Turkish troops to enter central Afrin, accusing Kılıçdaroğlu of “supporting YPG terrorism.”
“It’s a grave mistake,” Bozdağ said on his Twitter account on Feb. 7.
“This means: ‘Don’t clear Afrin from terrorists, don’t touch the terrorists in Afrin.’ It is, therefore, support for terrorists,” he tweeted.