By Tugrul Cam, Zuhal Demirci and Behlul Cetinkaya
ANKARA (AA) - Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday said PKK has lost ground in northern Iraq due to Turkey's effective fight against terrorism.
Speaking to BBC Turkish Radio, Yildirim raised a number of issues including the ongoing operation in northwestern Syria, Turkey-U.S relations and the Russian and French reaction to Turkey's move.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
Yildirim said PKK had relocated its activities from northern Iraq to Syria for two reasons.
Firstly, due to Turkey's successful anti-terror operations in Iraq, and secondly, through U.S. encouragement to move their activities to Syria.
He reiterated that the ongoing operation in Afrin was to liberate the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.
So far, 1,485 PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists have been "neutralized" since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch, according to the Turkish General Staff on Wednesday.
The military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that the targets were killed.
Yildirim said in the 24 days of the operation, 107 rockets fired by the terror group had targeted civilians in Turkey's border provinces.
He rejected French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's statement about the operation.
Last week, Le Drian claimed that Turkey had targeted civilians in the operation and “violated international law".
Referring to French colonialism in Africa which led to civilian deaths, he said: "Its track record in Africa is too bad. Not one, two, we are talking about millions."
Speaking on Turkey-Russia relations after the operation, he said: “Russia does not consider it [YPG] as terrorist organization but, it has no objection against our Afrin operation."
When asked about the U.S. funding of PYD/PKK terror group, he said: “What a grave contradiction! We are NATO and strategic allies. They [U.S.] have bases in our country. Our cooperation dates back years. While all is clear, America is [working] hand in hand with terror groups…”
The U.S. has worked with the PYD/YPG/PKK as a “reliable ally” in the fight against Daesh, including supplying them weapons, against strong Turkish objections that the group is the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK, and that using one terrorist group to fight another makes no sense.
The PKK -- recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken some 40,000 lives in its three-decade terror campaign against Turkey.
If approved by Congress, the U.S. would provide $550 million to Syrian groups, including the PYD/PKK-led SDF.
In Manbij, northern Syria, he said, taking sides with PYD/PKK meant bearing enmity against Turkey.
On the possibility of a clash between Turkish and U.S. troops, he said, Turkey will not initiate any attack, but will defend itself if the need arises.