By Ali Kemal Akan, Mumin Altas
ANKARA (AA) - The ground units of Turkish military is likely to join operation in Syria’s Afrin on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.
“From tomorrow [Sunday], depending on developments, our ground units will perform the necessary activities [as part of the Operation Olive Branch],” Yildirim told reporters in a joint news conference with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli in Ankara.
The prime minister said the first phase of "Operation Olive Branch" was conducted by air forces and 'nearly all' targets were destroyed.
Turkey launched a military campaign in Afrin region, northwestern Syria, to eliminate the PKK, PYD, YPG and Daesh terrorist organizations, and to save civilians in the region from the terrorists’ oppression and cruelty.
“The goal of the Republic of Turkey is not and may never be to bring prejudice to the territorial integrity of Syria. The work that is being done for the last three years will remove the harassment and destruction on the territory of the Euphrates Shield in northwestern Syria and it will also eliminate the violation against civilians living on our border districts and terrorism activities.
“In addition to this, the rescue of our Turkmen brothers from oppression and persecution of terrorist organizations is one of the important goals of this operation,” Yildirim added.
“Since last three years, the level of persecution by the terrorist group in the region has increased to such a level that 350,000 of our Kurdish brothers came to our country to save their lives and settled here,” the premier said.
“Therefore, the black propaganda of the terrorist group claiming ‘an operation is being conducted to eliminate the Kurds in Afrin’ has absolutely nothing to do with the reality. The operation is launched to protect the Kurds and the Arabs and the innocent people from the persecution of this bloody, separatist terrorist organization.”
For his part, Bahceli voiced his support for the Turkish military’s campaign, calling it a “well-planned” and “very important operation”.
“This operation has drawn attention as it was well-planned both in diplomatic and military perspective as well as in creating the public opinion,” the MHP leader said.
"The name of the operation is meaningful, even its scope is meaningful," he added.
Bahceli noted the results of the operation would be “a guide and enlightenment for our nation as well as against the [Western] attempt to reshape the Middle East”.
In separate, Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also expressed his "support" for the operation, wishing luck to Turkish soldiers in the region.
"Today we purely and simply wish God helps our soldiers fighting in Afrin," Kilicdaroglu said during his visit to the German city of Wuppertal.
"We want to live peacefully in our own country. We want to live in peace with our neighbors.
“We want the imperialist powers to leave the Middle East. We oppose to the arming of the Middle East. Each blood that shed in the Middle East is our blood, every tear is our tear... We have to bring peace to our own territory by ourselves,” he added.
The operation is carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council’s decisions and self-defense right under UN charter, the Turkish military said.
It said the operation will also take sensitivity into account and no civilian/innocent person would be harmed.
The PYD/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Since the mid-1980s, the PKK has waged a wide-ranging terror campaign against the Turkish state in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.
More than 1,200 security personnel have been martyred since July 2015 when the group resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state following a fragile cease-fire.