Erdoğan: Pro-regime groups in Afrin issue ‘closed’
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Earlier on Feb. 20, pro-regime groups who tried to enter Syria’s Afrin withdrew before reaching the city following a series of warning shots.
Speaking at a joint news conference alongside his Macedonian counterpart Gjorge Ivanov in the Turkish capital Ankara, Erdoğan said there was a movement towards Afrin by Shiite militias, which were interrupted after they were shelled.
“But then they were forced to go back after artillery shooting. This file is closed for now,” he said.
“Yesterday, we agreed on these issues in talks with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani. Unfortunately, you know, these kinds of terrorist organizations have [sometimes] taken the wrong steps with the decisions [they have made] on their own,” said Erdoğan.
On Feb. 20, Erdoğan spoke with Putin and Rouhani over Turkey’s ongoing operation, the fight against terrorist elements and the latest developments in Syria, particularly Afrin and Idlib.
“It is impossible to give them [any terrorist organization] a chance [in Afrin]. They would pay a heavy price for it,” he added.
The pro-regime groups withdrew about 10 kilometers away from Afrin, in northwestern Syria.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” to clear People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from Afrin.
‘Turkey will eradicate FETÖ all over world’
Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’s firm stance against the terror group behind the 2016 defeated coup.
“We are determined to eradicate this organization all over the world,” he said.
“In this context, we really want to see concrete steps by Macedonia in the fight against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ],” said the president.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan supported Macedonia’s stance in its row with Greece about the country’s name.
“We have made our stance clear by being the first country to recognize Macedonia with its constitutional name and national identity and by appointing an ambassador,” he said.
Macedonia was founded in 1991 and was admitted to the United Nations in 1993, but it had been accepted under the provisional name of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM), due to Greece’s objection to the name Macedonia.
Some 118 countries, including Turkey, currently recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name.
Greece does not accept Macedonia’s name because it has a region by the same name in its north. Greece also argues that the former Yugoslav Republic has claims on its territory and its historical heritage.
Since 2017, negotiations have stepped up, as the new government in Skopje wants a deal over its name with Athens, which can veto its NATO and EU membership.
Ivanov thanked Erdoğan for Turkey’s “principled stance” over the name issue.
The Macedonian president also voiced support for democratically elected Turkish authorities in the face of any kind of terrorism.
“We are aware of all the steps taken by the Turkish Republic. We realize the harm that you [Turkey] have suffered from FETÖ and other terror groups. We are against all kinds of terrorism,” said Ivanov.
The Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and its United States-based leader Fethullah Gülen are widely believed to have orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.