Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria is progressing as critical regions are cleared of the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG), the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) militia.
"The operation continues as planned. Until now, very strategic regions are cleared of terrorists," said Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın yesterday, while adding that until now, almost a thousand terrorists were killed during the operation.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement yesterday that 999 YPG terrorists have been killed in the operation so far. The statement said the TSK had neutralized 29 more YPG terrorists in airstrikes carried out overnight. Furthermore, the village of Sheikh Horuz in northern Afrin has also been liberated from the terrorists.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the ongoing operation aims to secure northern Syria's border with Turkey and protect the civilian population from the YPG.
On Jan. 20, Turkey, along with the FSA, launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
The military also said that only terror targets were being destroyed and the "utmost care and sensitivity" were being used to not harm civilians.
Meanwhile, commenting on whether there are negotiations with U.S. authorities on evacuating YPG elements or locals from Afrin, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Tuesday in an interview with TGRT Haber that the U.S. has no military presence in Afrin, and that Turkey is already taking necessary measures to protect civilians. "Our expe
ctation from the U.S. is to cut its support to terrorists, stop arming them and not stand in our way," he said. Çavuşoğlu said that relocating YPG militants will not solve the problem and they should lay down their arms or be killed. Concerning recent remarks from the U.S. on establishing a security zone in Syria, Çavuşoğlu said Ankara cannot trust the U.S. since Washington had not kept its promises.
The U.S.'s cooperation with the YPG has been a thorny issue for Ankara, which has repeatedly warned of the repercussions of using one terrorist group to defeat another. The U.S., however, has been touting the effective results of its cooperation with the YPG in the fight against Daesh. However, although the fight against Daesh has almost ended, the U.S. still continues to support the YPG with arms and military equipment. Stating that Turkey is aiming to rebuild trust with the US, Kalın said that concrete steps by the American government would repair those relations the most. "These are actions that do not fit into an alliance, and poison and overshadow Turkish-American relations. We want these actions to stop as soon as possible and to have relations that continue in accordance with the alliance, based upon trust," Kalın expressed.
Turkish officials continue to reiterate that the operation is being carried out in line with international law, past U.N. Security Council resolutions, the right to self-defense as enshrined in the U.N. Charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity.
Visiting the Syrian border yesterday, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak said the operation is being conducted with great and ultimate attention to not harm any civilians. "This nation gives a strong and brave message with its state, which is the fact that no one can demolish this state with its population of 81 million," Albayrak said. The minister also visited the families of soldiers who had been killed in the operation and received information from the mayor of Hatay on the conditions of residents. Speaking at the BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation opening ceremony after his visit, Albayrak also said that anyone who does not consider the YPG a terrorist organization is a terrorist themselves.