Turkey will not act against Russia, says deputy PM
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkey is not planning to act against Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on March 26, after the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats across Europe and in the U.S. as part of a coordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.
“There are positive and good relations between Turkey and Russia. In this sense, Turkey is not contemplating on taking any decision against Russia,” Bozdağ said after a cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.
On March 26, 14 EU member states expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in an orchestrated reaction over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K.
At least 45 Russian diplomats have been expelled from EU countries so far.
The U.S. also expelled 60 diplomats and ordered the closure of Moscow’s consulate in Seattle.
‘Operation Olive Branch’
Speaking about Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch,” Bozdağ said a total of 3,755 militants have been “neutralized” since the start of the offensive in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region.
He also said 282 villages, 50 strategic points and 332 locations were taken under control by Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin.
On March 18, the Turkish armed forces and the FSA declared full control over the city.
Bozdağ added that Turkey’s actions in Afrin were not finished.
Stressing that utmost care was being given regarding civilians during the operation, Bozdağ said mine and explosive searches continue to provide security for the civilians in the region.
Stating that Turkey was supporting nearly 40,000 civilians in 106 locations in the Afrin region, Bozdağ said Turkish organizations such as the Turkish Red Crescent, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs’ (Diyanet) foundation continued to provide humanitarian aid.
Turkey will continue to provide medical support to the region, he added.
He also addressed the Turkey-EU Summit held on March 26 under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Varna, Bulgaria.
“We hope that this summit will open a new door, the relationship will gain a new acceleration,” he said.
During the summit, several matters relating to Turkey-EU relations, economy, counterterrorism, foreign policy, Palestine, the Balkans, Syria, Iraq and Libya will be discussed.