Turkey will not withdraw its troops from Afrin despite the urging of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın has said.
“Operation Olive Branch will continue until the whole region around Afrin, including Tal Rifaat, is cleared of terrorist elements,” Kalın told reporters on April 5.
He was replying to a question about whether Rouhani had called on Erdoğan to leave the northern Syrian district to Syrian regime forces at an April 4 tripartite summit in Ankara between the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia.
Kalın said Rouhani mentioned the issue during the talks and Turkey briefed attendees about Turkey intention to maintain the security and stability of Afrin by through the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “and the people of Syria.”
Turkey is ready to support humanitarian assistance in Syria, including the regions of Tal Abyad, Tal Rifat, and other places, he also said, vowing that Ankara will make discussions with the international coalition and guarantor countries regarding this issue.
“In order to more swiftly deliver humanitarian aid in Syria, pressure on the [Bashar al-Assad] regime must be stepped up by Iran and Russia,” Kalın said.
Turkey launched an air and ground operation supporting Syrian rebels against the YPG in its northwestern enclave of Afrin on Jan. 20, capturing the city two months later on March 18. Ankara views the YPG as a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an over three-decade insurgency in Turkey.
Meanwhile, Kalın described U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements about a possible U.S. withdrawal from Syria as “contradictory,” saying Trump’s messages and those of the U.S. military “signal serious confusion.”
He also warned Paris not to repeat the U.S.’s mistakes, when asked to assess reports of possible French troop deployments in Syria.
Elaborating on reports that France was deploying limited number of soldiers in Syria, French officials had told their Turkish counterparts that there was “no question” of sending soldiers to Manbij, Kalın said, adding that Ankara was looking into the reports and would inform Paris of its opposition “if this is found to be true.”
After French President Emmanuel Macron met with a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) delegation last month there has been growing tension between Paris and Ankara, with Erdoğan hitting out at Macron’s offer of establishing a dialogue between Turkey and the SDF.
‘Ball is in US’ court on Patriots’
Work for delivery of Russian S-400 missile defense systems within 2019 has been finalized, Kalın also stated, claiming that Turkey’s NATO membership “does not contradict this procurement.” He noted that Turkish and American officials had discussed the purchase of Patriot systems from the U.S. and stressed that Turkey’s priority is the joint production of the system.
“We could not agree with the production company of the Patriots [during previous talks],” Kalın said, adding that the Russians have “taken quicker steps.”
“Turkey has nothing to worry about on purchasing Patriots if similar conditions are met. We can carry out negotiations to purchase Patriots if they meet the required conditions,” he added, saying the “decision lies with the U.S. side.”
The presidential spokesperson also said Ankara is cautious about statements that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has retreated from the Sinjar region of Iraq as the group previously made such “tactical moves.”
“They change names and they change positions but they still try to keep their presence there,” Kalın said.