Erdoğanist columnist claims Turkish military’s Afrin operation increased AKP’s vote

Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist who is known to be close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has claimed that a military operation Turkey launched in the northern Syrian town of Afrin has led to an increase in the ruling party’s vote.

In his column in the pro-government Hürriyet daily on Monday, titled, “Striking results from opinion surveys,” Selvi wrote that “The confidence level in the state and the government increased by 8-9 points with the launch of the Afrin operation. Afrin [operation] has been likened to the July 15 in this respect. The Afrin operation seems to have influenced the politics, though not as much as July 15.”

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters launched the incursion named Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Selvi said there has been a decline in the number of undecided voters and that as many as 55 percent of the nation say they can vote for the AKP with the launch of the operation in Afrin. July 15 refers to a controversial coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 on that date.

The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have reacted strongly to people who oppose the operation, and prosecutor’s offices have initiated investigations into those who share social media messages critical of the operation. Turkish government has detained at least 786 people over their critical stance against Turkish military operation in Afrin region of northern Syria so far, according to official data.

The Turkish Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday that a total of 85 demonstrations have been held in protest against the Afrin offensive since the beginning of the operation on January 20, 2018. A total of 786 people were detained for either attending such protests or “making propaganda against the offensive on social media,” according to the statement made by the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Turkish and Russian presidents on Monday discussed Turkey’s ongoing operation in northwest Syria and the establishment of new observation posts in Idlib, the Anadolu news agency reported, based on Turkish presidential sources. Speaking over the phone, Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed to continue cooperation and coordination in the fight against terrorism.

The two leaders discussed the latest developments in Afrin and the process of establishing new observation posts in the de-escalation zone in Idlib. The two leaders also emphasized the close contact on bilateral and regional issues.

According to a report by pro-government Hürriyet daily, Erdoğan has told Putin that the Turkish army will “continue its advance towards Afrin with determination,” warning that the Syrian regime’s attempts to enter the enclave will bring about unwanted consequences. “If Syria opts for such a move, there will be consequences,” Erdoğan reportedly told his Russian counterpart.

According to the Turkish presidential sources, Putin said he was “not in a position to confirm an agreement” between the Syrian regime and the YPG in Afrin, while “reiterating Moscow’s understanding” over Turkey’s military operation into Afrin.

Moreover, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ has denied reports suggesting that Syrian regime forces were heading on Monday to the northern Syrian town of Afrin, where Turkey has been conducting a military operation since Jan. 20, to take sides with the Kurds

“Popular Forces will arrive in Afrin within a few hours to support its people’s stand against the Turkish regime’s attack on the area and its people,” state news agency SANA said early on Monday, citing its correspondent in Aleppo. SANA said the forces would “join the resistance against the Turkish aggression.”

Speaking following a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, Bozdağ said Turkey is closely following news about the PYD making an agreement with the Syrian regime, adding that such reports are “untrue and have nothing to do with reality.”

“It is out of the question for the Syrian regime to send any security forces in the region. If such a step is taken, this could lead to a big disaster,” warned Bozdağ. The spokesperson also added the Operation Olive Branch would continue until “the last terrorist is rendered ineffective.”

A spokesperson for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Monday denied reports of a deal with the Syrian government to enter Afrin where a Turkish military incursion is ongoing. YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud said the Kurdish forces had not signed an agreement with the Syrian regime to enter Afrin but had only called on the army to protect the borders.

“Our forces have not reached an agreement. We have only called on the Syrian army to defend the borders from Turkey’s assault,” Mahmoud clarified. “There has been no agreement with the Syrian government for the handing over of Afrin.”

“If the Syrian army considers itself responsible for protecting the borders from Turkey’s offensive then it must do so today,” the YPG spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday said Iran understands Turkish concerns over plans of the US in the region, according to Anadolu. Speaking at the Discussion Club Valday in Moscow, Zarif said that “Concerns of our Turkish neighbors about the US plans in the region can be understood and we need to deal with these concerns. And it is best to do this legally through the Syrian government.”

The operation launched by the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is still ongoing. The YPG, the military wing of the PYD, is supported by the US military in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and currently controls Manbij, northwestern Syria, where US soldiers are also deployed.

He also called the US attempt to use the Kurdish factor in Syria as “short-sighted.” About Iranian military bases in Syria, he said that “No, we don’t have any.” (SCF with

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