Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Turkish troops, pro-Turkey militia will not remain in Syria's Afrin: Ankara

Iran Press TV

Mon Mar 19, 2018 04:13PM

Turkey says its military troops and pro-Ankara forces do not plan to remain in Syria's Afrin as occupiers after they ousted Kurdish militants from the northern city, insisting that Ankara will leave the region to its "real owners."

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag made the promise on Monday, a day after Turkish soldiers, backed by members of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia, captured the city from the grips of the Kurdish militants, particularly those of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

He added that there was no plan to remain in the city, even as officials warned the offensive could expand eastwards.

Ankara waged the so-called Operation Olive Branch against the YPG, perceived by the Turkish government as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "terrorist" group, in the volatile region of Afrin in January 20, and has said that the full-scale offensive could extend to Manbij and beyond.

"As we said, we will not permanently stay there, nor are we occupiers," Bozdag told reporters in televised comments in Istanbul, alleging that the objective of Operation Olive Branch was to restore peace, security and stability to the region and leave it to its "real owners."

The capture of Afrin is seen a major step forwards for Ankara as it seeks to bolster its control along the border in the northern parts of the Arab country.

Meanwhile, AFP correspondents and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Turkey-backed FSA militiamen have reportedly gone on a rampage in Afrin, pillaging shops and homes after capturing the city on Sunday.

The FSA members broke into shops, restaurants and houses and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the AFP reporters said.

The UK-based monitor group also said that Turkey's Syrian allies "have begun pillaging private property, political and military sites and shops."

Operation Olive Branch is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria during the unprecedented foreign-backed militancy that broke out in 2011.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish militants, who were themselves fighting Daesh.

Turkey ended its campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but at the time did not rule out the possibility of yet another military offensive inside the Arab country.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

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