The Turkey-led military operation in Syria’s Afrin region will continue until the terror corridor through Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, and Qamishli gets wiped out, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
Erdogan's remarks came after Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army fighters took control of Afrin town center early on Sunday.
Speaking at the Bestepe Culture and Congress Center in the presidential complex in capital Ankara, the president said: “The military operation will go on until the terror corridor through Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, Qamishli has been wiped out.”
Moreover, he said 3,622 terrorists had been "neutralized" since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria's Afrin.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Erdogan said the most important stage of the Operation Olive Branch was completed after taking control of Afrin city center.
"We have eliminated most of the terror corridor in the region," he said.
-A possible operation to Sinjar
Erdogan also hinted at another operation against the PKK terror group in the Iraqi city of Sinjar.
“We can suddenly come over one night in Iraq's Sinjar and eliminate PKK terrorists there,” the president said.
In mid-2014, the PKK managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar on the pretext that it was “protecting” the local Ezidi community from the Daesh terrorist group.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin in northwestern Syria amid growing threats posed from the region.
On Sunday, Turkish-backed troops liberated the town of Afrin, which had been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since 2012.
According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch has aimed to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
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 has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
EU aid for refugees
During his speech, Erdogan also accused EU of breaking refugee aid promises, saying that he will ask the bloc about the second tranche of €3 billion ($3.69 billion) for Syrian refugees during a summit in Bulgaria next week.
EU-Turkey summit set for March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria is bringing together EU leaders and the Turkish president.
The president said the bloc was discussing the remaining €3 billion but his country had not received all of the first promised amount even two years after the migration deal.
"The promises have not been kept. They said they would allocate 3 billion euros plus another 3 billion euros of assistance, but so far 850 million euros have reached our safe,” Erdogan said.
Last week, the European Union Commission offered an additional €3 billion ($3.72 billion) for Syrian refugees in Turkey as part of a 2016 deal.
European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos had told that the bloc was due to move the second tranche of €3 billion for projects supporting Syrian refugees in Turkey.
In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aiming to stem the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets all 72 requirements set by the EU.
Turkey has long complained of the EU being slow to deliver the promised funds for refugees and failing to uphold its end of the deal concerning visa-free travel.
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