By Meryem Goktas and Faruk Zorlu
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said Turkey will not allow discrimination against any minority group in the country.
Speaking at a meeting with Turkish Roma at the presidential complex, Erdogan said: "There is no difference for us between Turks, Roma, Kurds, Laz, Bosnians, Georgians, we all love each other for the sake of Allah."
The Turkish president said he will not allow any discrimination towards the Turkish Roma and other minority communities.
Erdogan said his ties with the Turkish Roma go back to his days of childhood in Istanbul’s Kasimpasa district, which has a large population of Roma people.
He recalled the treatment of the Roma people by Nazis in Germany during the Second World War and France’s regulation of the community.
He criticized treatment of Roma community by Germany and France – nations that call themselves “civilized”.
In 2010, the French government launched a repatriation program targeting thousands of Roma community members and announced steps to shut down “illegal” camps where they lived.
Although Roma people are EU citizens, French law allows them to get work and residency permits for more than three months.
In 2013, 165 camps were dismantled and 19,380 Roma people were sent away, which was more than the two previous years combined, wrote French daily Le Monde in January 2014, citing a report by the European Roma Rights Center.
According to the European Commission, there was an estimated population of 10 to 12 million Roma in Europe in 2016.
Turkish officials estimate the number of Roma in Turkey at around 600,000, according to local media.
- Fight against terrorism
Erdogan said at least 4,108 terrorists had been neutralized since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria's Afrin.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians 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 resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that the "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
Erdogan said that the number of "neutralized" PKK terrorists in northern Iraq reached 337.
Airstrikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq, where the terror group has its main base in the Mt. Qandil region, near the Iranian border, have been carried out regularly since July 2015, when the PKK resumed its armed terror campaign.
A total of 173 terrorists were neutralized in Turkey's counter-terrorism operations.