By Andac Hongur
ISTANBUL (AA) - The top Orthodox Christian leader based in Istanbul has expressed support for Turkey's military operation against terrorist groups in Syria’s Afrin region.
In a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew said he hopes Operation Olive Branch in Syria “brings an end to the terror problem which has occupied our country for decades and claimed thousands of lives, and that it brings peace to Syria.”
“We pray for the end of terrorist activities which affect and disturb all our citizens, particularly the Kurdish citizens in the southeast, and a swift development of our country in a secure environment,” Bartholomew said, according to a statement by the patriarchate.
Bartholomew also praised Erdogan and Turkish soldiers for acting against terrorism.
“We wish you and the Turkish Armed Forces success and that Operation Olive Branch brings peace to the region, as its name suggests, and gives hope for a safe future to the long-suffering people.”
“Your strong and consistent stance against categorizing terrorism makes a tremendous impact in the international community,” he added, referring to Turkey’s rejection of the idea of “good” and “bad” terrorists.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.