Afrin operation has de facto begun - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a crowd of supporters at his party’s provincial congress in Kütahya that his country’s military invasion of the majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)-controlled Syrian canton of Afrin had already in effect started, state news agency Anadolu said.

“The Afrin operation has de facto begun in the field,” Erdoğan said. “Following this will come Manbij.”

Erdoğan hit back at those who had urged caution in the operation.

“If there are some today who think that we will withdraw from our struggle for our independence and future when threatened with ‘we could lose soldiers’ and who think they will be able to persuade us to take what they dole out to us, it is our duty to show that they are mistaken,” he said.

Erdoğan told the crowd that terror organisations were the same no matter what they were called.

“There are no Syrian Democratic Forces, no border army, no border guards, no internal security structure. Who are you fooling?  This organisation’s name is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), this organisation’s name is the Democratic Union Party (PYD), this organisation’s name is the YPG,” he said.

He told the crowd that the Fethullah Gülen movement, a religious group whom the government calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ) and blames for the July 2016 failed coup attempt, would soon be betrayed by America who would throw them out once they lost their use.

“I suppose that when you say ‘Turk’, the only thing that comes to their (the West’s) minds are the FETÖ members who sat in their laps, were fed and grew there, and the personnel of this network of treachery, who have no character, no spine, and are open to all kinds of (ab)use.”

The true occupiers of Syrian territory were “anyone who murdered the Syrian people, regardless of if (their victims) were women or children,” Erdoğan said.

“Can there be a bigger occupier than those who murdered around one million Syrians?” he asked.