By Andac Hongur
ISTANBUL (AA) - The Turkish foreign minister on Friday questioned the international community’s stance on the recently launched Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria’s Afrin province.
Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “When we launched Operation Euphrates Shield against Daesh, no country said ‘Please mind the civilians, please end it as soon as possible. Why did you launch it?’ But when we began an operation against PYD/PKK, they began to say ‘We understand your security concerns but mind this, mind that. Make it short, mind the civilians.’ They also began a defamation campaign.”
Speaking at a conference titled "Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision" in Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University hosted by the Freedom and Justice Association, Cavusoglu said Turkey follows a proactive and humanitarian foreign policy.
“With Turkey’s proactive policy, we have become country with a say in the world and became an important actor,” he added.
Regarding Turkey’s continuing Afrin operation, Cavusoglu said: “It is one of the priorities of our foreign policy to fight against all kinds of terror groups not only within but also abroad. It doesn’t matter whether it is the PKK, Daesh or FETO [Fetullah Terror Organization].”
“Our operations in Turkey, in Syria are not against our brothers/sisters living in the region. Our operations in Iraq against the PKK are not against the locals […] Today, Turkey hosts 350,000 Syrian Kurds. Though the PYD controls about 25 percent of the Syrian land, none of these Kurds [in Turkey] want to return to that region. Once our Operation Euphrates Shield was complete, nearly 100,000 Syrian brothers/sisters alone returned to that region,” he said.
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 the Syrian people from the 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, 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 importance" is being given to not harm any 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 putting up a fight.