By Semra Orkan and Cemal Coskun
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, separately, over the phone late Friday, according to a diplomatic source.
In the conversation with Stoltenberg, Erdogan shared information about the latest developments in the ongoing military operation in Syria’s Afrin region.
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 the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
Erdogan pointed out that the operation, which is carried out with great care to not harm the civilians, was not an obstacle to fighting with Daesh but rather a part of this fight.
Highlighting the fact that the fight was against all terror groups, Erdogan said it was sad to see some NATO allies allowing some groups while regarding Daesh as the only threat in the region.
Erdogan added Turkey continues to adhere to NATO’s values and spirit of alliance, while Stoltenberg said Turkey is an important NATO ally that contributes greatly to the alliance.
During the conversation, Erdogan also wished Stoltenberg a happy birthday.
Later, the president also talked to his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko over the phone, according to a presidential source.
The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and expressed resolve to improve the economic, trade, tourism and defense ties between the two countries.
Developments in Crimea and issues of Crimean Tatars’ were also discussed.
The fight against Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the organization behind the defeated deadly coup attempt on July 15, 2016, also came up in the talks and the two presidents agreed to share intelligence and take necessary steps in this regard.
Ukraine has been wracked by conflict since March 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after an illegal independence vote.
The UN General Assembly has voted to proclaim the Russian annexation as illegal.
Along with many UN countries, the U.S., the EU and Turkey also do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
Since the annexation of Crimea, the region’s Tatar minority has complained of repression, including arbitrary arrests and detentions.