President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blasted the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) over its criticism that the Turkish army has allied with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the ongoing operation into the northern Syrian district of Afrin.
“It seems they get enraged when it comes to the FSA. They argue they have discovered something no any intelligence organization could ever find: That the FSA is a terrorist organization. But hearing this from those who call the PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party] a [political] party does not astonish us,” Erdoğan told his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group on Jan. 30.
Turkey considers the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as terrorist groups because of their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish Armed Forces, along with the FSA, on Jan. 20 launched the cross-border “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin to clear YPG elements from the border region.
Although the CHP supports the operation it has questioned the composition of the FSA, drawing reactions from senior government officials including Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
“The FSA was established to defend its homeland. They are like the national forces [Kuva-I Milliye] during our War of Independence,” Erdoğan said, describing the CHP once again as “a party of treason.”
“You should explain the open support you lend to a terror organization. The person leading this party once said ‘The YPG is not a terror organization but an entity formed to save its homeland,’” he added.
Campaigning through blood is not moral: CHP
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu responded during his own weekly address to his parliamentary group on Jan. 30.
“Trying to win votes through the blood of martyrs is perverse. Those who try to win votes by exploiting nationalist [sentiments] cannot be called either human or moral,” Kılıçdaroğlu said
He slammed the AKP’s policies for helping to “turn the Middle East into a swamp,” with more than three million Syrians fleeing the country in Turkey because of violence.
“Because of these gentlemen, our country has now became part of this swamp. It’s because of them that we have spent billions of dollars for Syrian refugees,” he said, accusing the government of fanning the flames of the Syrian war by sending arms to fighting groups.
“We told them not to pour oil on flames. We told them not to take sides in the civil war. But they have never listened to us,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
‘Some columnists are Erdoğan’s slaves’
The CHP head also touched on the president’s recent suggestion that the Afrin operation would lead to 3.5 million Syrians in Turkey being sent back home. He noted that was subject to heavy criticism from both the government and pro-government columnists when he suggested in 2016 that all Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey would be able to return to their homes after the country is stabilized.
“When I said this they accused me of racism. But two years later it is Erdoğan who said Syrians will be returning to their homes. I ask those columnists now: Why don’t you criticize Erdoğan just like you criticized me? Those who have became the slaves of Erdoğan cannot write this,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.