Turkish ambassador to Pretoria Elif Comoglu Ulgen has briefed the South African public about Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria, saying it is aimed at neutralizing terrorists and saving Syrians from the oppression of militants.
"I am convinced that the South African people will sympathize with our cause and trust our intentions after being informed firsthand about the matter, in an effort not to leave room for misguided snap judgments about the realities of the Syrian conflict," Ulgen wrote in a piece published in a South African daily.
Ulgen explained to South Africans that Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring because its national security remained under the direct and imminent threat of terrorist organizations operating east of the Euphrates River in Syria.
She said some of the terrorist groups operating there include Daesh and the PKK’s Syrian affiliate the PYD/YPG.
The diplomat said PYD/YPG units close to the Turkish border in northeastern Syria engaged in harassment fire on Turkish border posts and also used snipers and advanced weaponry such as anti-tank guided missiles.
"Turkish villages and civilians have also been affected. It is critical to highlight once again that the PYD/YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU and NATO," she said.
In a brief interview with Anadolu Agency, Ulgen highlighted Ankara’s position that "Turkey is not fighting against Kurds and this military operation is not against Kurds. It’s against terrorism, and the YPG does not represent Kurds."
“Turkey is the only country which put boots on the ground against Daesh terrorists,” she added.
The diplomat said terrorist activities that PYD/YPG units have been involved in include the smuggling of explosive devices, weapons and ammunition into Turkey with the aim of empowering PKK-affiliated units inside not only Turkish territory but also in Syria’s Afrin and Al-Bab regions to commit deadly terrorist attacks against innocent Syrian and Turkish citizens.
She said there has been growing evidence about the PYD/YPG’s human rights violations such as recruiting child soldiers, intimidating dissidents, demographic engineering and forced conscription in areas under its control.
"The local population’s grievances against the PYD/YPG’s tyrannical rule has been on a constant rise, causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes for their safety, to find refuge in Turkey," she wrote.
Ulgen said the Turkish government could no longer tolerate the presence of terrorists at its borders.
"We were compelled to take our destiny into our hands. To counter the imminent terrorist threat, Turkey initiated Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9, 2019 in line with the right of self-defense as outlined in Article 51 of the UN Charter."
Ulgen has conducted several radio and television interviews explaining her country’s position and dispelling rumors regarding the operation.
The diplomat assured South Africans that the objective of the operation is to ensure Turkey’s border security, neutralize terrorists in the region and save Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of the terrorists.
She also clarified that Turkey has no plans whatsoever to acquire Syrian territory or to modify the demographic structure in the operation area.
"The operation also aims to support the international efforts to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of displaced Syrians to their homes of origin or other places of their choice in Syria, in line with international law and in coordination with relevant UN agencies."
By Hassan Isilow in Pretoria