UPDATE WITH MORE REMARKS OF 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, 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 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 by Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, the top U.S. commander in the anti-Daesh coalition, saying that if Turkey hits Manbij -- as it says it will -- it will get a sharp response.
"Those who say that they will give a sharp response have not been hit by the Ottoman slap," said Erdogan.
Erdogan stressed that Turkish security forces take the utmost care to avoid harming civilians during Operation Olive Branch.
Turkey on Jan 20. 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 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.