Afrin operation closing in on victory - Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed on Saturday that Turkey’s military operation in the Syria’s Afrin region is approaching victory.
“With each passing day we are getting a little closer to victory.” he said. "Sooner or later the operation will be over. But when that time will be I cannot say."
He made the comments whilst addressing a Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial conference in the Anatolian city of Afyon.
During the speech Erdoğan also announced that Turkish forces have captured 300 square kilometres of territory in Afrin since the operation, code named ‘Olive Branch’, was launched on 20th January this year. He also claimed that over 1600 terrorists had been 'neutralized' during the operation, whilst 30 Turkish soldiers and 90 of their allies in the Turkish backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) have died.
The operation pits the Turkish armed forces and FSA against predominantly Kurdish groups that have occupied Afrin, a nearly 2000 square kilometre region abutting the Turkish border in north-western Syria, since 2012. Turkey considers such groups to be terrorists due to their close links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Erdoğan also reiterated his desire that the 3 million refugees who have sought sanctuary in Turkey since the conflict began return to Syria, whilst stating that Turkey’s has no designs on Syrian territory.
“We want our brethren to resettle in their lands. Our 3.5 million Syrian brothers want to return to their homes. We are striving for this. We do not have our eyes on our Syrian brothers’ land.”