Turkey’s ambassador to Canada is denying that his government is responsible for the displacement or deaths of civilians in northern Syria, calling claims to the contrary “propaganda.”
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Selçuk Ünal defended Turkey’s recent launch of a military offensive in the region just south of its border with Syria.
He argued that the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG fighters, who had been battling the so-called Islamic State alongside international partners like Canada and the U.S., are themselves terrorists that must be driven out.
“According to us, they are the sister organization to the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which is a terror organization … So we have been telling, and calling to, all the international community that this group should not be around, at our borders.”
Turkey is not necessarily opposing Kurdish autonomy or ethnicity, the ambassador added.
“We don’t have any problem with the Kurdish people, or Kurdish descent,” Ünal said.
“We have Kurdish-descent citizens in our country. We have had good relations with the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government. We also have good relations with the other 11 Syrian-Kurdish political parties operating in Syria.”
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A recent statement from Canada urged Turkey to exercise restraint and to respect international law during its operations in Syria. The ambassador said those military actions are being done in the name of national security and within United Nations-backed frameworks.
“The reason why it’s going slowly is our utmost care for the possible civilian casualties,” he said.
But news reports suggest a very different reality, with some putting the number of displaced civilians at 16,000. Families have reportedly been driven into nearby caves as Turkish airstrikes continue. Ünal called that a “propaganda campaign.”
“We are calling everybody, civilians around, to vacate the areas … But this is not something that we are really causing by entering. Actually, we have so far liberated 12 or 15 villages from this (Kurdish) organization or (the Islamic State) and we are continuing humanitarian assistance in those areas to those civilians.”
So how far is Turkey prepared to go?
“We will continue the operation until the whole terror threat, be it PKK or Daesh, will be eliminated in that area.”
– Watch the full interview with Turkey’s ambassador to Canada, Selçuk Ünal, above.