By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
ANKARA (AA) - The Turkish-led operation in Afrin, northwestern Syria, across Turkey’s border, is meant to rid the region of terrorists so the Syrians who rightfully own the land can return, Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S. has argued.
"Operation Olive Branch is not targeting the Kurds,” Serdar Kilic wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday. “On the contrary, Turkey aims at clearing Afrin from the terrorist usurpers and returning the land to its rightful owners: the Syrian people, including the vast majority of Syrian Kurds who do not share the murderous ideology of the PYD-YPG" terrorists.
Kilic wrote to rebuff claims in an op-ed by French author Bernard-Henri Levy published last week by the paper.
"Bernard-Henri Levy bases his defamatory piece on the oft-repeated falsehood that the PYD-YPG, the Syrian branch of the PKK, represents all Syrian Kurds," he wrote. "This is first and foremost an insult to the 300,000 Syrian Kurds who fled to Turkey to escape PYD-YPG atrocities."
Kilic said Levy "tries to whitewash" the PYD/YPG terrorist group "in a shameful attempt to portray it as the savior of the West, while ignoring the assassinations, persecutions and ethnic cleansing it has perpetrated in all the Syrian lands it has occupied. The PYD-YPG abuses have been well-documented by independent human-rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch."
Kilic also cited Turkey’s previous success in liberating Syrian soil from terrorists.
“Turkey was also the first country to launch a successful ground offensive against Daesh/ISIS in Syria through Operation Euphrates Shield (OES) and suffered horrific reprisal terror attacks at home. Today, areas liberated through OES have become a rare haven of stability and prosperity within Syria. Syrians have been flocking back to their homes. Turkey aims to replicate this success story in Afrin,” wrote Kilic.
“Not a single Syrian Kurd has dared to return to the areas currently held by the PYD-YPG,” he added. “The Syrian lands grabbed by this terrorist organization are in ruins and their demographics altered. Allowing and encouraging a terrorist organization to steal even more land in Syria, all the while turning a blind eye to the atrocities against original inhabitants, will only perpetuate the root causes that led to the emergence of Daesh/ISIS in the first place.”
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council’s decisions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming civilians.