Turkey clings to its goal of eliminating terrorism: Presidential spokesperson
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has criticized some Western countries for perceiving Turkey’s military operation in Syria as a distraction from the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In a column titled “Allies should support Turkey against terrorism” for the Daily Sabah newspaper, Kalın said Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” was “in full conformity with the goal of eliminating all terrorist threats from Syria and a step in the right direction to protect Syria’s territorial integrity.”
The column was published more than a week after Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin in northwestern Syria.
“Operation Olive Branch is fully legitimate within the framework of self-defense as is enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter,” Kalın said.
Kalın pointed out that the southern Turkish border provinces of Hatay and Kilis were subject to over 700 attacks from Afrin over the past few years and the PKK was using the area as a recruitment and training ground.
He said the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the YPG took control of Afrin in the name of fighting ISIL but they used the ISIL threat as a pretext to expand areas they control in Syria to establish an autonomous region and eventually an independent state structure.
“Turkey cannot allow this to go any further,” Kalın said.
The spokesperson recalled concerns of some countries over the size and duration of the operation and warnings to avoid civilian casualties.
“There is no ground for any of these concerns. Turkey’s record in Operation Euphrates Shield is very clear. Turkish forces cleared the areas between Jarablus and al-Bab from Daesh terrorists, avoided civilian casualties and returned the area back to its rightful owners, i.e., local Syrian communities,” Kalın said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Kalın also warned “those who fail to see the YPG threat in Syria” and said they were making a “historic mistake.”
“Just like al-Qaida, Daesh, Boko Haram, the PKK is a terrorist organization and its PYD and YPG Syrian affiliates are no different. The fight against the YPG in Syria and Iraq is not a distraction from the fight against Daesh. On the contrary, it serves the purpose of eliminating all forms of terrorism in the region,” he said.
Kalın said Turkey raised the issue of threat of the PKK in Iraq and YPG in Syria with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and neighboring countries.
He said Turkey’s allies failed to see the urgency of the issue. “However, it does not prevent Turkey from taking action to protect its citizens and borders.”
Kalın went on to warn that the PKK threat was not just an issue related to Turkey.
“Eliminating terrorist networks in Iraq and Syria is also necessary for the people of those countries and to protect their territorial integrity and political unity,” he said.
‘Contradicting statements from US’
Kalın stressed that “Operation Olive Branch” was not against Kurds in Syria but against a terrorist organization.
“The PKK does not represent Kurds and cannot speak on their behalf. There are millions of Kurds who reject the PKK’s old-fashioned Marxist-Leninist ideology and its terrorist tactics. Furthermore, the PYD and YPG have been oppressing the people of Syria, including Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens in the name of fighting Daesh. Their primary goal is not to fight Daesh but to establish a state structure by force and oppression. The world should wake up to this simple fact,” he added.
Kalın drew attention to the contradicting statements of U.S. President Donald Trump and the U.S. military about their support for the PYD and YPG.
“The U.S. administration has said that once the Daesh threat is over, they will no longer support the PYD and YPG. This is what U.S. President Donald Trump told President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in two phone calls on Nov. 24 and Jan. 24. Yet the U.S. military support to the YPG continues, and this raises serious questions about the ultimate goal of this policy,” he said.
Kalın further said that empowering a terrorist force in Syria poses a threat to NATO and jeopardizes Syria’s territorial integrity and ethno-social harmony.
“Just as Turkey supports its allies in their fight against terrorism, they should support Turkey in its fight against terrorism, whether it is Daesh, the PKK or the Gülenist Terror Group. This is what a true alliance and friendship requires,” he added.