We have never betrayed our allies: Erdoğan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 25 accused the U.S. of “betraying” Turkey for its support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), saying Ankara never “betrayed its allies.”
Referring to the U.S. forces’ collaboration with the YPG militia in Syria, during a speech in the southeastern province of Gaziantep Erdoğan said: “Those coming from 11,000 kilometers away, those paying their [YPG] salaries, if you are our ally, do what an alliance requires, and if you are not, tell us so. We have taken steps with our allies and have not betrayed them. And we will not have respect for those who have betrayed us.”
The Turkish president made the comments while addressing a huge crowd in the province ahead of the sixth ordinary provincial congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Gaziantep.
Erdoğan also accused the U.S. of “standing behind” the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely accused of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016. “Do we have another state other than the Republic of Turkey? Where is the parallel state [referring to the FETÖ]? In Pennsylvania [where FETÖ leader Fethullah Gülen is based]. Who stands behind him [Gülen]? You there [in the U.S.] are hiding the one who undertook the coup from your strategical partner. If you are not giving him to us, I cannot explain this to my nation. So, what you should do is give this FETÖ coup plotter back to this country,” he said.
Erdoğan said there would be no stepping back in the fight against FETÖ and those found guilty would continue to pay a “heavy” price for what they did, including being given aggravated life imprisonment sentences.
Turkish authorities previously said that all procedures had been completed on the part of Turkey regarding Gülen’s extradition and Ankara was waiting for the U.S. to launch the relevant process.
Erdoğan also touched upon some countries’ ongoing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his speech, saying “how it is possible that this man is being looked after.”
“Assad is a murderer. Isn’t he the one that has killed nearly one million of his citizens? Isn’t he the one who, besides chemical weapons, killed his own citizens with conventional weapons? We have never stood by oppressors. We have never oppressed,” he said.
Erdoğan added that Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin district was undertaken to protect locals from oppression. “We have gone to Afrin for this reason, and we’ll continue to stand against the oppressors,” he said.
He said the number of militants so far “neutralized” in the operation currently reached 2,021 but vowed it will keep on increasing. “Until no terrorist is left there; we hopefully will expel all of the terrorists there and will hand those lands to their owners,” he said.
Turkish authorities use the word “neutralized” in statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Later, Erdoğan also held a speech during the congress, where he reiterated Turkey’s “determination to fight against terror groups in Syria” and said Turkey would return the region to its “real owners.”
“Around 140,000 of our Syrian brothers have returned so far and started living on their own soil, which we secured during the Operation Euphrates Shield,” he said, referring to a previous cross-border operation led by Turkey that ended last March.
“After the Afrin operation, our brothers will return to their own lands and end their lives in refuge.”
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty.