Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan states that when the Operation Olive Branch is concluded successfully, it will enable 3.5 million Syrians in Turkey to return to their homes safely.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses heads of Turkish villages and neighborhoods in Ankara, Turkey on January 24, 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses heads of Turkish villages and neighborhoods in Ankara, Turkey on January 24, 2018. (AA)

Turkey wants to forge justice – not take land, as its operation continues in northwestern Syria, Turkey’s president said on Wednesday. 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by Turkish armed forces were seizing control of Syria's Afrin region along Turkey's borders, as part of Operation Olive Branch.

“Our concern is the establishment of justice, not taking land,” Erdogan said.

Turkey would first destroy the terrorists and, after Operation Olive Branch ends, would assist 3.5 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to return to their homes safely, he added.

During his speech, Erdogan said 268 terrorists had been killed over the last four days. At least seven others were from the Turkish army and FSA forces. 

"Turkey is trying to defeat a terrorist organisation that posts photos of 13- or 15-year-old children and innocent old women with guns put in their hands and forcing those who need a piece of bread to pay money."

'Not against Kurdish population'

Erdogan said the YPG/PKK terror group had released all Daesh prisoners on condition they would fight against the Turkish army and the FSA in Syria's Afrin region.

"These terrorist organisations [YPG, PKK, Daesh, the far-left DHKP-C] are all the same. These are terrorist groups serving the same purpose in the same scenario with different roles."

The president also slammed those who, he said, misportrayed the operation as "one against our Kurdish brothers while it is clear that this operation targets several terrorist organisations."

Erdogan said the same accusations had been levelled against Turkey during Operation Euphrates Shield.

"Turkey neutralised more than 3,000 Daesh and hundreds of YPG terrorists in Operation Euphrates Shield," he said, adding Turkey had enabled nearly hundreds of thousands of Syrians to return home.

The Turkish president said the operation would last until the last terrorist was neutralised.

Erdogan also said the military would work to clear the entire border region of terrorists, stretching from Syria's Manbij.

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins explains the complications ahead.

At least 214 targets destroyed

Meanwhile, the Turkish prime minister said on Wednesday that a total of 214 targets were hit and destroyed as part of Operation Olive Branch.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Nigerien counterpart Brigi Rafini in Ankara, Binali Yildirim said the operation was continuing as planned.

"Two hundred and forty-one targets were hit and neutralised. Clearing operations in the area are ongoing," Yildirim said.

He added that the operation would continue until the area was completely cleared of terror groups such as the YPG/PKK and Daesh.

Turkey launched the operation last Saturday to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from the Afrin region.

The Turkish General Staff said the operation was aimed at establishing security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region, as well as protecting Syrians from the terrorists' oppression and mistreatment.

It said the operation was being carried out within the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law.

The military has also said that it has now taken at least 16 targeted areas and only terrorist targets were being destroyed, and "utmost diligence" was being shown to avoid civilian injuries or deaths.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies