World, Middle East

Erdogan says Afrin will be handed over to residents

Turkish president criticizes recent statement of Russian foreign minister asking Ankara to return Afrin to Assad regime

Erdogan says Afrin will be handed over to residents


By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey will return Syria's Afrin to its residents as he criticized recent remarks of Russian foreign minister.

Russia's Sergey Lavrov on Monday urged Ankara to return Afrin to the Bashar al-Assad regime.

"This is a wrong approach. We know very well to whom we will return Afrin," Erdogan told reporters in the parliament.

He said Afrin would be handed over to its residents "when the time comes".

"But, we will define the time." 

During a visit to the Golcuk Naval Shipyard Command in the northwestern Kocaeli province and Gelibolu district of Canakkale province, the Turkish military chief said Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, northwestern Syria, was being carried out in line with the international law and the principles of the fight against terrorism.

"Operation Olive Branch, including its arms and the ammunition used, and in military and humanitarian terms, are in line with the international law, counterterrorism principles and UN resolutions, and is being conducted in respect of Syria's territorial integrity," Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said.

The Turkish army chief also said civilians, the environment, and historical sites of Afrin were never targeted since the Turkish Armed Forces saw them as untouchable.

"All kinds of measures to provide safety of civilians living in the area are being taken. No compromise will be made about protection of peace and a trusted environment."

Gen. Akar said all military and humanitarian activities in the region were being conducted to give an example to other countries of the world.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups from Afrin in northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.

On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated Afrin town center, which had been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since 2012.

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