By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s president said on Tuesday that the current Turkish-led operation in northern Syria will continue from the region of Afrin to Idlib, which Turkey will hand back to its rightful owners.
"The operation in Afrin will resolutely continue, and an Idlib operation will follow it," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.
On questions over when the operation would end, Erdogan referred to years-long U.S. and NATO missions in the region, saying: "When have you ended your operations in Afghanistan or Iraq? You’re still there."
Erdogan also criticized the U.S. stance on Syria, saying then-President Barack Obama had spoken untruthfully on Syria, adding that current President Donald Trump “is the same way."
Turkey has long objected to U.S. support for the terrorist PYD/PKK -- the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK, which has taken some 4,000 lives in Turkey -- with the U.S. claiming the group is a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh.
Erdogan reiterated that the U.S. promised Turkey it would leave Syria's Manbij region, but that it put PYD/PKK terrorists there instead.
- 'Cooperate with Turkey'
Erdogan called on the U.S. to cooperate with its NATO ally Turkey in the region. "Our fight is just against terrorist groups."
"They tell us, 'Don’t come to Manbij.' We will come to Manbij to hand over these territories to their rightful owners," said Erdogan.
"The U.S. says that they have cleared Daesh” from Syria, said Erdogan, asking: “Why are you still here?"
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.
The military also said the "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
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.