By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Never in our history has Turkey carried out any civilian massacres, as it is against our nature, said Turkey’s president on Wednesday, rebuffing attempts to smear its anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
"Turkey has never committed any civilian massacre in its history and it never will. Our religion and culture would never allow to do it," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group.
In fact it is the history of those who accuse us of committing massacres that are full of such massacres, Erdogan said.
"If you’re looking for civilian massacres, look at Afghanistan, Myanmar's Rakhine state, Upper Karabakh, and Bosnia," where Muslims were slaughtered late in the last century and in this one, Erdogan said.
He added: "If you want to see civilian massacres, look at Cyprus before Turkey's intervention, look at Palestine just under your nose, where the Muslims are deliberately killed in the streets."
On the island of Cyprus, an attempted coup and violence against the island’s Turkish population led to Turkey’s 1974 intervention as a guarantor state, and later the foundation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkey is not fighting Syrians but the terrorist cruelty imposed on them, together with the Syrian people, said Erdogan.
In its anti-terror Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, the Turkish army is not targeting churches, even when terrorists use them as sniper nests, he added.
- No mediation
Turkey launched the operation to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Since its launch last week, PKK/YPG terrorists have been circulating misleading and falsified images to smear Turkey's counter-terrorism efforts in the eyes of the Turkish public.
Photos taken years ago and thousands of miles away are deliberately mislabeled as having to do with Turkey’s operation, but fact checkers at Anadolu Agency and elsewhere have exposed these smears.
Erdogan said since the operation was launched on Oct. 9, Turkey has cleared 1,220 square kilometers of terrorists.
Rejecting offers to “mediate” in the conflict, he said: "The Republic of Turkey never in its history sat down at a table with terrorist groups. We are not looking for a mediator for that."
Instead, he laid down a red line, saying: "By tonight all terrorists must lay down their arms, destroy their traps, and leave the safe zone we determined."
Erdogan's remarks came ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Turkey on Thursday.
Pence will be accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and they will meet with Erdogan in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
Turkey has said the PKK and the YPG/PYD constitute the gravest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.