UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH FM
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish foreign minister on Friday said the Afrin region in Syria would be handed over to Syrians once it was cleared from terrorists through Operation Olive Branch.
"After clearing them [terrorists], we will hand the region over to its real owners; namely, we will hand it over to Syrians," Mevlut Cavusoglu said at an event in southern Antalya.
Cavusoglu also slammed the U.S. over its “double-faced” actions, providing arms to PYD/PKK terrorists and expressing concern for civilians as well as the length of the operation.
"Do not be double-faced, be honest," Cavusoglu said.
He added that it is not possible to find a political solution with terrorist groups.
"From wherever terror threat comes, from Afrin [Syria], Sinjar [Iraq], Qandil [Iraq], Manbij [Syria] or Euphrates River's east, we will intervene and destroy it," the foreign minister said.
He stated that Turkey is the most sensitive country when it comes to civilians, refugees and their rights.
“We host 3.5 million Syrians and Iraqis in our country. We never said ‘it is enough now’,” he said and noted that the U.S. does not even contribute to Turkey’s spending on humanitarian issues but it still reminds them of the issues.
In a speech on Jan. 11, Cavusoglu stated that Turkey spent $30 billion to meet the needs of the refugees.
- 'Solving problems'
He said Turkey will be friends with anyone who wants to be friends with his country.
“We have developed a sincere dialogue with [Sigmar] Gabriel [German foreign minister]; we are taking steps and solving problems.”
Cavusoglu also spoke of his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl’s Thursday visit to Istanbul and said: “We don’t have any problem with Austria or other countries… If you want to normalize things, we will do it.”
Ties between the two countries soured in 2016, due to restrictions imposed by Austrian authorities on Turkish politicians, who wanted to campaign in the country ahead of a key referendum in Turkey. The campaigns were to take place targeting Turkish nationals living in Austria.
On Saturday, 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 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.
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.
The U.S. supports the PYD/PKK, considered by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which has been engaged in a terror campaign against the Turkish state for more than three decades, which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
American support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara, as Washington views the PYD/PKK-led umbrella group, SDF, as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections from Turkey.