Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has praised Turkey’s military offensives in northern Syria, as he defended his party’s stance on backing a motion that allowed the country to conduct cross-border operations.
“There are non-governmental organizations in Idlib and Afrin and majority of their expenses are funded by the European Union. They deliver extraordinarily beautiful services to the Syrian people there,” Kılıçdaroğlu told daily Cumhuriyet, as he added that he was shown pictures from the area.
“All of these services would disappear if our soldiers withdrew,” he also said.
Turkey carried out three military offensives in the past three years in northern Syria, with Afrin included in Operation Olive Branch.
The most recent offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, was launched on Oct. 9 with the aims of clearing the border from militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and establishing a “safe zone” in order for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Ahead of the offensive, the CHP backed a motion that extended the state’s authority to carry out cross-border operations, prompting criticism from both within and outside his party.
During the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu defended his stance, saying that it was correct for the party to say “yes,” while adding that “we know plenty of facts that the government doesn’t.”
“We have to think about the Syrians there. What will happen there when Turkish soldiers withdraw? Those people will also come to Turkey. The cost of withdrawing would be heavier on Turkey. That’s why, we understood the reality regarding the necessity of the soldiers staying in the region for us and the people living in the area, especially women, children and the elderly,” he said.
“We made our decision within this framework,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
Slamming Turkey’s foreign policies, the main opposition leader noted that the country suffered a serious loss of international reputation regarding Syria since the beginning of the war.
“Ensuring peace in Syria was the initial aim. The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey acted jointly for this. There is neither peace nor democracy at this point,” he said, adding that Turkey’s policies in the Middle East have failed.
Kılıçdaroğlu also touched upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s highly undiplomatic letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying that the latter should not go to the U.S. to meet with the former.
“Erdoğan should not go to the U.S. He is saying that he will take the letter with him. There is no bigger nonsense. You should send a reply to this letter in a way that will protect the honor of the people. You should reply in a tone that he deserves, but in line with diplomatic rules,” he said.
Trump’s letter to Erdoğan included phrases such as, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
The letter was slammed by Turkish authorities, with Erdoğan saying that “he threw it in trash.”
The leaders of NATO ally countries are set to meet this month.