US’s words must match actions, President Erdoğan says
ALGIERS – Vahap Munyar
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged the U.S. to “show consistency” between words and actions, saying the special commissions set up to tackle thorny issues between the countries will hold their first meeting next week.
“Words and actions cannot be different, this is unacceptable. We hope to see some consistency between what they [the U.S.] tell us and the things they do on the ground,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists accompanying him on his official trip to four African countries, which started from Algeria on Feb. 26.
He also touched on his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during the latter’s recent visit to Turkey on Feb. 15 and 16, in which Ankara and Washington agreed to set up three special joint committees to address the many problems between the two NATO allies.
“The first meeting of those committees will take place on March 8 to discuss Syria. Another meeting at the foreign ministers’ level is planned for March 19,” Erdoğan said.
Asked about speculation over a possible clash between Turkish and U.S. soldiers in Syria’s Manbij, Erdoğan stated that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) should be removed from the area.
“There should not be any terror organizations there. We have always advocated that Manbij should be returned to its true owners: The Arabs. I conveyed our position to Tillerson,” he said, also vowing to press ahead with “Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin against the YPG.
“We will engage whoever gets in our way [in Afrin]. We will not be selective; we will do what is necessary when we encounter them,” he added.
“You have to kill the dragon, you cannot just it leave there half-alive. One way or another, this job will be done,” said Erdoğan.
He also said the PYD and the YPG have totally collapsed in Afrin and the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) elements now control an area as large as 540 square kilometers there, having captured the toughest terrain in the area.
“The total area under our control, including Jerablus, Rai and al-Bab, is 2,000 square kilometers,” Erdoğan said, stressing that since the beginning of the operation a total of 2,083 militants have been “neutralized.”
The authorities use the word “neutralized” in statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
“The Turkish military is making history in Afrin. Despite severe weather conditions, it is carrying out a very successful operation,” Erdoğan said.
Phone conversation with Macron
The Turkish President noted that he had discussed developments with the Russian and Iranian leaders and had also spoken on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron. However, he denied reports that during the latter conversation Macron referred to the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Syria and said there should be no interventions in Afrin.
“Those reports are untrue. Macron did not mention anything like this. We are fighting against terror groups that pose a threat to our national security,” Erdoğan said, again stating that Turkey “does not have its eye on anybody’s land.”
During the Afrin operation underground tunnels used by militants have been discovered as well as ready-mix concrete mixers belonging to the French company Lafarge, he also added.
“They have factories there. Given all this, how can the West call our actions into question?” Erdoğan said.