By Merve Yildizalp and Sefa Sahin
Turkey is not planning to act against Russia, the deputy premier and government spokesman said on Monday after the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats across Europe and in the U.S as part of a coordinated response to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the U.K.
“There is a positive and good relation between Turkey and Russia. In this sense, Turkey is not contemplating on taking any decision against Russia,” Bekir Bozdag said after a cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.
On Monday, 14 EU member states have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in an orchestrated reaction, over the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K.
At least 45 Russian diplomats have been expelled across Europe so far.
The U.S. also expelled 60 diplomats and ordered the closure of Moscow’s consulate in Seattle.
Operation Olive Branch
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin, northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.
A total of 3,755 terrorists have been "neutralized" since the start of the Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin region, Bozdag noted.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
He also said 282 villages, 50 strategic points and 332 locations were taken under control by the Turkish troops and Free Syrian army.
Bozdag added that Turkey’s actions in Afrin were not finished.
Emphasizing the utmost care for civilians during the operation, Bozdag said the mine and explosive searches continue to provide security for the civilians in the region.
Stating that Turkey was supporting nearly 40,000 civilians in 106 locations in the Afrin region, Bozdag said Turkish organizations such as the Turkish Red Crescent, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Diyanet Foundation continued to provide humanitarian aid.
Turkey will continue to provide medical support to the region, he added.
He also addressed the Turkey-EU Summit held on Monday under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Varna, Bulgaria.
“We hope that this summit will open a new door, the relationship will gain a new acceleration,” he said.During the summit, several matters relating to Turkey-EU relations, economy, counterterrorism, foreign policy, Palestine, the Balkans, Syria, Iraq and Libya will be discussed.