Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 8 that the government wants the country’s ongoing operation in the northern Syrian district of Afrin to “be completed by May.”
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl, Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Vienna that Turkey wants the operation to end as quickly as possible so that Afrin can “embrace stability and civilians can return.”
Meanwhile, state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the town of Jinderes in the Afrin district from People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants on March 8.
While heavy street fighting between the FSA and militants continues, armed drones of the Turkish military are targeting militants trying to escape from the area, the agency reported.
The move came after Turkish Armed Forces and the FSA captured Jinderes Hill on March 7.
Anadolu Agency reported that sources said the YPG had planted mines around Jinderes and set up traps in the town center using improvised explosives. The exact number of YPG militants in the town is unknown, they added.
Since the launch of “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured 157 locations, including five town centers, 122 villages, 30 strategic areas, and one YPG base.
Jinderes is the fifth town center in the Afrin region to have been captured.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 8 that the areas in Afrin that the YPG considers crucial are “falling one by one.”
Once Turkey’s operation is over, “probably 200,000 Syrians” will return to Afrin, Erdoğan said at an event to mark March 8 International Women’s Day, organized by the Family Ministry.
“We are not in Afrin to invade. We are only there to clean these areas of terrorists,” he said, referring to the YPG militants. “Once the job is done we will go back to our own positions and return those places to their real owners.”
Erdoğan also put the number of militants “neutralized” since the beginning of the Afrin operation as 3,089. The Turkish military had put the number of “neutralized” militants as 3,055 militants earlier in the day.
The Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.