Turkish foreign ministry slams US comments on Afrin's 'displaced people'
Responding to the comments made by the U.S. State Department, Turkish Foreign Ministry on May 5 denied reports that citizens of Syria’s northern province of Afrin were allegedly not being allowed back in their homes.
“The U.S. State Department spokeswoman has made unfortunate statements based on unconfirmed assumptions under the influence of PYD/YPG terrorist organization’s smear campaign in a news conference on May 3,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement, referring to Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and the armed People’s Protection Units.
Citizens of Afrin "are not being allowed back in their homes and communities," U.S. State Department's Heather Nauert said on May 3.
“We have expressed grave concern about the humanitarian situation in Afrin over recent weeks and months. That remains a concern of ours today,” U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a routine briefing.
“We have been watching this situation very carefully in Afrin. 140,000 people have been displaced from Afrin, and as far as we can tell, they are not being allowed back in their homes and communities,” she added.
“We call on all relevant sides, all relevant actors operating in the northwest—that includes Turkey, Russia, and Syria—to provide access for international humanitarian aid organizations and to allow for people to come home. They cannot be forced back in their homes, but we would like for them to be brought home or to be able to head home safely and as soon as possible,” Nauert said.
“First of all, it is the PYD/YPG that prevents local people from returning to Afrin,” Aksoy said in response.
The YPG is trying to produce new material in its smear campaign against Turkey, while the fact is explosives and mines planted by the “terror” group are a threat to the citizens and preventing them from going back home, he said.
“Turkey continues its efforts to normalize the situation in Afrin and to facilitate the safe return of local people,” Aksoy added.
"The humanitarian situation in Afrin being [described as] a ‘deep concern’ under the current circumstances is completely unfounded. The actual source of concern in northern Syria is the ongoing cooperation between countries we deem as our allies and PKK/PYD/YPG terrorists.”
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear YPG militants from Afrin. On March 18, Turkish-backed troops declared full control of Afrin town center, which had been controlled by the YPG since 2012.
‘Turkey staying in Afrin’
Turkey will maintain its presence in the northern Syrian province of Afrin until it has been secured, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on May 4.
“We will remain in Afrin and we will be there until we assure its security," Erdoğan said, speaking at the Istanbul Youth Festival.
“Idlib, Tal Rifaat and Manbij will be next,” he added, naming Syrian provinces.