Erdoğan, Macron discuss Afrin operation, YPG rocket attacks over phone
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed on Feb. 3 Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s northwestern district of Afrin over the phone, state-run Anadolu Agency quoted a Turkish presidential source as saying.
Sharing information about the military operation, Erdoğan told Macron that the operation aims to clear the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Afrin, according to the source.
Erdoğan also said Turkey does not have any designs on the country’s territory.
In addition, the Turkish President spoke to his French counterpart about the cross-border rocket attacks perpetrated by the YPG on Turkey’s bordering Hatay and Kilis provinces.
According to the source, Erdoğan and Macron also exchanged views on bilateral relations and the outcome of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in the Russian coastal city of Sochi this past week.
The leaders agreed to keep in close contact regarding regional issues, particularly on the political process in Syria, the source said.
Macron had infuriated Ankara last week when he said the operation in Afrin should not become an excuse to “invade” Syria and that he wanted Ankara to coordinate its actions with its allies.
“If France is interpreting this issue as an [invasion operation], we also need to assess what they have done in Syria,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Jan. 31, in response to Macron’s remarks.
“This is a crooked idea from the start. The whole world knows that Turkey is not acting to make territorial gains. They should know it too,” he said.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu hit back at Macron saying that Turkey considers remarks about an operation it is carrying out in accordance with international law to be insults, especially coming from a country such as France.
In the face of strong reactions from Ankara, Macron nuanced his earlier remarks on the Turkish military operation.
“I note that the reaction of the Turkish foreign minister probably means that [the operation] is nothing more than a bid to secure the border and that Turkey does not intend to go further than the positions it occupies today or to stay in the region in the long-term,” Macron said on Feb. 3.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 clear the Afrin district of the YPG, a group Ankara sees as a terror group for its links to the PKK.
A total of 932 militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning the operation, Deputy Prime Minister said in a televised interview on Feb. 4.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
The Turkish military also said that seven Turkish soldiers were killed on Feb. 3 during the operation.