ADD REMARKS FROM YILDIRIM AND HARIRI
By Ozcan Yildirim
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s prime minister hit back on Wednesday after French President Emmanuel Macron questioned the motives of the current Turkish-led counter-terrorist operation in Syria.
"The world knows, it must know that Turkey is never acting with an occupying mindset” with Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria, Binali Yildirim told a news conference alongside his visiting Lebanese counterpart Saad Hariri in the capital Ankara.
“If we look at Euphrates Shield, we see this," said Yildirim, citing Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, a seven-month counterterrorist operation into Syria that ended successfully last March with Turkish forces returning home.
“Those who want to make sense of what we are doing in Afrin should look at the 2,000-kilometer [1,242-mile] area covering Manbij, Jarabulus, and Azez as part of Operation Euphrates Shield,” he added.
The earlier operation aimed to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border.
In an interview with Le Figaro published on Wednesday, Macron warned that if Turkey’s current operation turned into an “invasion”, this would be a “real problem” for France.
In response, Yildirim said Afrin constituted a security issue for Turkey.
“As all operations are taking place against Daesh in Syria, we, too, have launched an operation in Afrin against Daesh, the PKK, PYD/YPG,” he said.
He went on to add that should France take issue in this manner, perhaps “their activities in Syria should be also considered”.
Yildirim also said Turkey was willing to boost bilateral relations with Lebanon on a number of issues.
Hariri, for his part, welcomed Turkey’s willingness to contribute to the relations including with regards to security and infrastructure projects.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
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.