Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the European Parliament’s motion that calls on the Ankara government to halt its cross-border military offensive in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin, vowing that Turkish troops will continue the operation until the mission is completed.
“Don’t get your hopes up. We will only leave Afrin once our work is done,” Erdogan said at an award ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on Thursday.
He called on the European Parliament to be "honest," adding, "The European Parliament has nothing to say to Turkey and whatever it has to say on this issue will go through one ear and out the other.”
The non-binding motion also urges Turkey to withdraw its troops from Afrin.
It also stressed “the need to focus on defeating the UN-listed terrorist organizations” like the Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terror groups.
Separately, Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik has criticized the European Parliament’s motion, saying it demonstrates “clear support” for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militants.
“The latest decision is the most visionless decision the European Parliament has taken in recent years... Calling on Turkey to withdraw its troops is a clear support for terrorist organizations,” Celik commented.
30,000 civilians flee Turkey bombardment in 24 hours
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Turkish bombardment of the Afrin region has forced 30,000 civilians.
The Britain-based monitor said on Thursday that the displaced people have mostly taken refuge in nearby towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa.
Earlier, AFP reported that many families with elderly people and children had left Afrin aboard pick-up trucks, in which some people had wrapped themselves in mattresses or blankets.
Those inhabitants, who have remained in the city, queued up in front of bakeries or went to buy water from tanker trucks. The city suffers a shortage of water since Turkish forces have reportedly taken control of the dam that serves the region.
The Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Thursday morning that a total of 3,524 terrorists have been "neutralized" since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.