UPDATE WITH MORE QUOTES FROM ERDOGAN
By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - It is wrong to say that NATO equals the U.S., President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday, pointing out that all countries in the alliance are equals to the U.S.
In his remarks to the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group in capital Ankara, Erdogan called on the U.S. to abide by its NATO obligations.
"What kind of NATO membership is this? What kind of NATO alliance is this?" he asked.
"As president of Turkey, [I say] NATO is not equal to the U.S., all countries [in the alliance] are equals to the U.S."
Erdogan's remarks came ahead of the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Turkey this week.
The U.S. has supported the PYD/PKK terror group, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.
American support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara, as Washington views the PYD/PKK-led 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 by Turkey.
Erdogan also slammed remarks of Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, the top U.S. commander in the anti-Daesh coalition, who said if Turkey hits Manbij it would face a sharp response.
"Those who say they will give a sharp response have not been hit by the Ottoman slap," the president said.
He added that Turkish security forces were taking utmost care in avoiding harm to civilians during Operation Olive Branch.
Turkey on Jan 20. launched the operation 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.
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.
- Limits in Cyprus
Erdogan also drew attention to recent natural gas exploration activities of Greek Cypriots, terming them as "opportunist attempts" in the Aegean Sea.
"Those who crossed their limits in Cyprus and the Aegean Sea should not make any miscalculation while taking advantage of the concentration of the incident in the southern borders of our country," he said.
He warned that Turkey would break such miscalculations around Cyprus and the Aegean Sea as it did along the country's southern borders.
"We suggest the foreign companies conducting activities around Cyprus not to be an instrument to any works which exceed their limits and powers by trusting the Greek side," he added.
"Their swagger will end when they see our army, warships, warplanes," he said.
Erdogan remark's came after the Greek Cypriot Administration launched "unilateral" hydrocarbon-related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks, and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. collapsing in 2017.
Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the talks' failure, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a peace deal.