Turkey won’t leave Afrin until the job is done: Erdoğan to European Parliament
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the European Parliament’s motion calling on Turkey to withdraw from Syria’s Afrin district, vowing that Turkish troops will continue the operation until the mission is completed.
“Don’t get your hopes up. We will only leave Afrin once our work is done,” Erdoğan said in a speech in Ankara on March 15.
“Hey, European Parliament, what are you doing? You should be honest … There is nothing the European Parliament can tell us on this. Your statement will go in one ear and out the other. What burden have you shared with us in hosting 3.5 million Syrians so that you can tell us this?” he added.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin on Jan. 20 in order to clear the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the area. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently signaled that the operation could be wrapped up “in May” after the enclave is fully secured “for the return of local Syrians.”
The European Parliament approved the motion on March 15. The motion stated that the parliament is “seriously worried about the escalating situation in Afrin.”
The motion urged Turkey about civilian casualties, stating that many civilians have been killed during the operation and arguing that the operation would hamper efforts to find a political settlement to the war in Syria.
The resolution - which came ahead of a key Turkey-EU Summit in the Bulgarian city of Varna on March 26 - also described the YPG as “Kurdish forces,” while the Turkish government calls them “terrorists.”
‘Non-visionary and ignorant resolution’
Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik also criticized the European Parliament’s resolution, describing it as “non-visionary” and “ignorant.”
“This resolution shows how far away the European Parliament is from seeing the developments in the field and from assessing what’s going on in Syria,” Çelik told reporters.
“This resolution is a call on a NATO country and a candidate country to the EU to not fight against terrorism, even though it is under terrorist attack,” he said.
Slamming the resolution’s reference to civilian casualties, Çelik cited the fact that Turkey has been hosting 3.5 million Syrians on its soil as an evidence of its utmost protection of civilian life.
“This argument of the European Parliament is unacceptable … Whatever moniker it puts on, the YPG is a terror organization and it is equal to the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK. Therefore, Turkey’s fight is in accordance with international law,” Çelik said.
“The resolution also cites ‘Kurdish forces,’ which is simply using the language of terrorists. We condemn this expression of the European Parliament,” he added.
“In our eyes, calling on Turkey to pull back its troops means open support for terrorism. It means simply abandoning Turkey’s security concerns,” Çelik said.