By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday three-fourths of Afrin in northwestern Syria has been liberated during Operation Olive Branch.
Speaking at a local congress of ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in eastern Erzurum province, Erdogan said Turkey has resolved the Afrin issue to a great extent.
"Until now, we have established control in three-fourths of the Afrin region," he said.
Erdogan said 1,320 square kilometers of area in Afrin was taken under control and 3,530 terrorists were "neutralized".
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Erdogan also spoke about the presence of terrorists on the eastern side of the Euphrates River in Syria.
"If America really wants to cooperate with us against terror it must start by removing terrorists from east of Euphrates. We will definitely remove those terrorists from the areas they have invaded," Erdogan said.
'US gave weapons to terrorists'
Erdogan said the U.S. has sent 5,000 trucks and 2,000 cargo planes of weapons to the terrorists without charging a penny.
However, he added, the U.S. does not give weapons to Turkey even after payment.
"We said: 'Give us weapons with our money', they said: 'Congress does not permit it'... We cannot take it with our money, but you are giving it to terrorist organizations for free. Then you say: 'We do not stand by terror'," Erdogan said.
Ties between the two countries have been strained over U.S. support for the terrorist group YPG/PKK in northern Syria, which the U.S. has called a “reliable ally” in fighting Daesh, with Turkey pointing to its status as the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK.
Erdogan also said they will both extend and fortify their observation posts in Idlib and move towards Manbij in Syria.
The Turkish military has dispatched troops to Syria’s Idlib province to establish observation posts to monitor the cease-fire as part of the Astana Peace process.
Erdogan said Turkey is present in Syria to save Syrians from oppression and help them establish a safe future.
"We will also do the same in Manbij. If America vacates Manbij area together with the terrorists, we will carry out this work much faster and easier," he added.
Erdogan said the U.S. had promised to remove PYD/YPG from Manbij in three months but it was not done.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
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 terrorist oppression and cruelty.
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 "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
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