Erdoğan slams NATO for ‘not supporting Turkey’s Afrin operation’
“We have a 911-kilometer border [with Syria] and terrorist organizations are harassing us constantly from this border. The Syrian regime is also taking the same measures. When will you show up?” Erdoğan said on March 11 in the northwestern province of Bolu, referring to NATO.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 aiming to clear Afrin of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara regards as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a threat to Turkey’s security.
Erdoğan said NATO member Turkey sent troops to conflict zones when requested – giving the examples of Somalia, Afghanistan and the Balkan region - but did not receive necessary support for its Afrin mission in return.
“We were present all these places … But NATO when will you stand behind us?” he said on March 11, saying Turkey’s borders are “under constant threat.”
“Should I keep saying all these things? We haven’t received any positive response yet,” Erdoğan added.
“We now define the forces that we said were our allies and friends according to the actions they take in the field, not by the words they say to us,” he said.
In mid-February, Turkey marked 66 years of NATO membership, and according to the NATO charter an attack on one of the alliance’s members is an attack on them all.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also vowed that the ongoing operation is not to “occupy” Afrin but to “liberate it from terrorists” before “handing it over to the people living there.”
“In the Afrin region, the real owners of the lands have started to come back,” he said.
The president also said that an area of over “900 square kilometers” has been brought under control by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Turkish Armed Forces, as they press on to take the center of Afrin city.
“Since the beginning of the Afrin operation 3,300 terrorists have been neutralized,” he added.
State-run Anadolu Agency reported that the joint forces took 13 more villages in the region including the strategic airport Bablite, located between Jinderes and Afrin.
It reported that Turkish troops and the FSA have seized control of the villages of Qeretepe and Qastel Kisk in Sheran, northeast of the city of Afrin, as well as the villages of Khalidiah and Jalbul near the region’s center, and the village of Ka’n Kurk in the southwestern Jindires area.
Later on March 11, eight more villages – Khujamanli, Savan Kabir and Chencheylan in the northwestern Rajo area, Tallaf and Qujaman in Jinderes, Sulqli and Alibey in the northern Bulbul area, and Kawkabah near Afrin’s center – were also reportedly captured.
Since the beginning of the operation, Turkish and FSA forces have taken 185 strategic locations, including five town centers, 148 villages, and 31 key strategic areas, Anadolu Agency reported.