ADDS MORE QUOTES FROM ERDOGAN
By Kubra Chohan
ANKARA (AA) - The president on Friday highlighted the achievements of the ongoing military operation in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region, revealing that 415 square kilometers (160 square miles) of territory was now under control and over 1,800 terrorists had been neutralized.
Speaking at a meeting with provincial heads of ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in capital Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We have neutralized 1,873 terrorists and have an area of 415 square kilometers under our control.”
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
“The operation will continue with a new strategy once Afrin’s city center is surrounded, which will soon happen, and the terrorists are cut off from outside contact,” Erdogan said.
He added that Turkey expected the next phase of the ongoing Afrin operation to proceed faster since the strategic hills in the region were now largely cleared of terrorists.
“Our heroic soldiers are fighting selflessly and courageously, moving toward Afrin step by step by destroying the fortifications the separatist terrorist organization has carefully prepared for attacks against Turkey,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan added, “We will first clear Manbij from terrorists, and then will continue on our way until we make all of the west of the Euphrates safe for us and our Syrian brothers.”
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
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.