Turkey appreciates the U.K.'s stance on Operation Olive Branch, which Turkey is conducteding in northern Syria, a senior ruling AK Party official said Wednesday.
The AK Party's deputy chairman and former cabinet minister Mehdi Eker said at a panel held in the British capital London that Turkey is not carrying out its latest offensive in the region to invade or stay in the region but to bring stability.
Speaking at the panel, "The war in Syria: Is the territorial integrity of Syria unfeasible now?" organized by the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) at the House of Commons, Eker said the operation had both military and humanitarian dimensions. A statement by the U.K. government said the U.K. recognized that Turkey has a "legitimate interest in the security of its borders."
Eker said the operation is being conducted against terrorist elements from Daesh and the PKK, KCK, PYD, and YPG but it does not aim at any ethnic group, whether Syrian Kurds or Arabs. "The operation is carried out to save civilians from oppression and torture by terrorists in the region," he said, noting that Turkey is part of an international coalition against Daesh. Eker also underlined that around 100,000 Syrian people who fled Syria and took refuge in Turkey have returned to their homes in a de-escalation zone cleared of Daesh terrorists following the success of Operation Euphrates Shield. "We would prefer to fight against terrorist groups together with our allies and partners in NATO and other international organizations. However, we have been left alone. We have taken an action with our own troops," he said.
"What is important during the fight against terrorism is that all states should support a uniform approach against all terrorist groups." Eker also explained the threat originating from the Afrin region against Turkey. He said Turkey's border towns are under the threat of terror, as terrorists try to infiltrate the country from the region and use the area as a steppingstone to reach the Mediterranean Sea.
Lord Mark McInness and the London-based Royal United Services Institute's (RUSI) Middle East Studies researcher Michael Stephens also attended the panel organized by the UETD. The UETD president Erdal Yetimova, many students and academics were also present at the event.