UPDATE WITH MORE REMARKS FROM DEPUTY PM
By Nilay Kar Onum
ANKARA (AA) - The only target of the Operation Olive Branch is to eliminate terrorists from its region of operations, Turkey’s deputy prime minister and the government spokesman said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in the capital Ankara, Bekir Bozdag said: “The only target of this operation is the PKK, KCK, PYD/YPG, and Daesh terror organizations.”
Operation Olive Branch in Syria is not an operation “against our Kurdish brothers living in the region,” he added.
"This is an operation aiming to rescue Arabs and Turkmens, together with our Kurdish brothers living in the region, from the pressure and persecution of Daesh, the PKK, PYD, YPG, and KCK terrorist groups."
Calling the three-day-old operation not a “choice” but an “obligation,” he said it has been going successfully according to plan and it would continue with the same success.
On the first three days of the operation, Turkey has controlled the distance covered by the operation and its area, Bozdag said, adding that no member of the Turkish Armed Forces involved in the operation has been martyred so far.
On allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces has been targeting civilians during the operation, he denounced these as "a product of black propaganda."
- PYD freed Daesh terrorists
He stated that the PYD/PKK terror group had freed Daesh terrorists in Afrin on the condition that they fight Turkey.
Bozdag also dismissed claims that Turkey gave a commitment to Russia concerning the operation, saying that Turkey had given no guarantees to Russia, or in fact any other country.
Referring to statements by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he said: “The way to cooperation is clear: Stop arming [terror groups] and taking back the weapons given earlier” to those groups.
In London on Monday, Tillerson said Washington recognizes Turkey's legitimate right to protect its citizens from terrorist elements, adding that he was hoping to address Turkey's "legitimate concerns".
Turkey has long complained about the U.S. providing arms and support to the terrorist PYD/PKK, including its failure to take back arms it pledged would be retrieved after the defeat of Daesh.
Turkey on Saturday 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 to Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said the "utmost importance" was being given to not harm any civilian.
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.