European Parliament calls for Turkish military’s withdrawal from Afrin

The European Parliament have approved a joint motion calling on Turkish troops to withdraw from Afrin province of northwestern Syria.

Before the vote, a joint proposal amending the paragraph on Afrin was also approved with 372 votes in favor. This paragraph now reads, ‘The European Parliament expresses deep concerns about Turkey’s intervention against regions in Syria under Kurdish control.”

“Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish-controlled province of Afrin has added a new dimension to the conflict in Syria, raising additional humanitarian concerns and worries about the negative impacts on the delicate internal balances in Syria and/or the efforts towards a negotiated solution; the European Parliament stresses that a high number of civilian casualties has already been reported and that hundreds more civilian lives are at risk; whereas the VP/HR, on behalf of the EU, has clearly voiced these concerns, calling on the Turkish Government to stop its offensive and highlighting the need to focus on defeating the UN listed terrorist organisations,” the draft joint motion submitted on Wednesday said.

Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday criticized a European Parliament motion urging Turkey to stop its ongoing Afrin operation as “one-sided.” In a written statement, the Foreign Ministry claimed that with the motion, the European Parliament once again showed its one-sided views.

The statement said that it is not possible for Turkey to accept the decision of the EP, which the ministry said is known for its tolerance for terrorist groups. “As it has up to now, Turkey will continue to fight against all kinds of terrorist groups with determination,” the statement said.

The ministry alleged that Operation Olive Branch in Afrin 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.

“These accusations directed against Turkey, which is taking all kinds of measures during the operation to avoid harming civilians in the area, are unfair and baseless,” the statement added.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has slammed the European Parliament’s draft motion and said that the proposed motion “lacks vision” and reflects “an ignorant decision.” He said the “shocking” move demonstrated that the European Parliament was not aware of the situation in Syria and could not evaluate the developments on the ground in the war-torn country.

Additionally, Çelik drew attention to Turkey’s support for the Astana, Sochi and Geneva processes that aim to bring stability to Syria.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has also on Friday rebuffed the European Parliament motion, slamming it as “null and void.” “The EP’s decision is null and void for Turkey. Just because EP took this decision doesn’t mean Turkey will give up the fight against terrorism,” Bozdag posted on Twitter.

“Operation Olive Branch will continue until peace, security, and stability are established in the region and the last terrorist is out of Afrin,” he added. Bozdağ said that those who see the future of Europe as allied to terrorist groups are doing great harm to the EU, European Parliament, and the people of Europe.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey will not halt its ongoing operation in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region until it is complete. “Do not desire in vain, we will not get out of there [Afrin] until our work is done,” Erdoğan said.

Meanwhile, İbrahim Kalın, spokesperson for President Erdoğan, said on Thursday that over 70 percent of Syria’s Afrin region has been secured during the ongoing Operation Olive Branch.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run TRT Haber news channel in Ankara, Kalın said: “Geographically, over 70 percent of Afrin has been secured right now. “The circle has been tightened around the terrorists. We predict that the center of Afrin will be completely cleared of terrorists within a short period of time… They wanted to make Afrin a new Qandil. This desire has been made impossible to fulfill through Operation Olive Branch.”

The Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq have served as the headquarters for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

 The Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Thursday morning that more than 3,500 militants have been “neutralized” since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

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