Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed on Saturday that a global anti-Turkey propaganda based on lies would not be successful.
“Launching a worldwide war of propaganda, based on lies, slander and distortion, by those who cannot deal with Turkey on the ground will not work,” Erdoğan said during a provincial congress by the AKP in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş.
“They want to sever us from our sisters and brothers by forming a terror corridor along our borders with Syria. They do not hesitate to link arms with terrorist organizations. They are not aware of the fact that we will break the arms and wings of the terrorist structure they have been striving to form and destroy it completely. We believe we will sooner or later bring down the terrorist organizations and those who are behind them,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan rejected claims that civilians were being targeted during the controversial military operation. “It is not in our blood to attack civilians, but in yours,” he said. He said the country was determined to have a global voice on a range of issues, from economy to democracy.
Speaking to pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency about civilian casualties on Thursday, Afrin Canton Health Council Co-chair Ancela Resho has stated that during the 34 days of the Turkish military operation against Afrin, 176 civilians, including 27 children and 21 women, have been killed, while 484 civilians were wounded, among them 60 children and 71 women.
Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor) has also announced on Wednesday that Turkish military’s shelling has killed 17 women and wounded 44 women seriously in Afrin province of northern Syria.
Erdoğan harshly slammed the United States on Friday for allegedly “spreading fake news” about civilian casualties during the Turkish military’s ongoing operation in Syria’s Afrin district, accusing Ankara’s NATO ally of operating a “lie machine.”
According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, Erdoğan said in a speech to ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in Ankara that “Yesterday, the defense ministry spokesman one of these countries said unashamedly that ‘civilians are dying in Afrin and people cannot return to their homes due to violence.’ You are remorseless and immoral. You don’t feel the tiniest discomfort of the massacre of hundreds of children, women and civilians every day in East Ghouta but you express your annoyance at our fight against terrorists. You are spreading fake news.”
“Our army is paying utmost attention so that no harm comes to even a single civilian. That’s why our operation is a lengthy one. It would have already finished if we were not trying to distinguish civilians from terrorists,” he claimed.
Erdoğan was speaking after Pentagon Spokesperson Adrian Rankine-Galloway on Wednesday said the US is concerned about the effects of “Operation Olive Branch” on Afrin’s civilian population. Galloway said the US authorities will “do their best in their contacts with their Turkish counterparts to reduce tensions and harm to civilians.”
In a statement to Al Hurra television this week, Rankine-Galloway reiterated concerns about Turkey’s incursion into the Kurdish-controlled area, saying more needed to be done to reduce civilian casualties and to fight ISIL. “The thing that upsets us the most is the sanctimony and unseriousness of some of our partners, of some countries with which we have very deep political and military relations,” Erdoğan said in a speech at his ruling party’s headquarters in Ankara on Friday. In particular, Turkey was concerned about criticism that focused on the humanitarian element of the operation, he said.
Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White also expressed US concerns about Turkey’s military campaign in comments on Thursday, saying “that the common threat is ISIL and that fight is not over.”
Turkey has been criticised in the past by Western media and observers for not doing enough to tackle ISIL in Syria and allowing its fighters to pass to and fro over its border with the country. Concern has also been expressed about Turkey’s partners in the military operation in Afrin, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which contains radical jihadist groups. Turkey says it is doing more to battle ISIL than any other country.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held meetings with Erdoğan in Ankara. The two sides agreed to normalise ties and set up working groups in March to iron out their differences.
Turkey has slammed the United States for training and equipping Syrian Kurdish forces for the fight against ISIS, saying they are indistinguishable from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in Turkey, labelled as terrorists by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
President Erdoğan accused the US of trying to legitimize the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the YPG’s sister organization, by changing its name to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) campaign. He also referred to “unfulfilled promises” given by US officials about the withdrawal of YPG militants from Manbij to the east of the Euphrates River.
Turkey will “no longer buy lies, empty promises and delaying tactics,” Erdoğan said, in reference to ongoing talks with Washington. “It looks like this summer will be hot for the terrorist organization and for those that support it. We will first clear Manbij of terrorists and then we’ll continue our operation in order to secure the eastern Euphrates for us and our Syrian brothers,” he added.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has also said on Saturday that a total of 1,951 PYD/PKK and alleged ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. Turkish authorities generally use the term “neutralize” to signify that the targets either surrendered or were killed or captured. Earlier in the day, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement that a total of 782 terrorist targets had also been hit since the beginning of the operation.