ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday criticized comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov regarding the future of Syrian Kurdistan’s Afrin region.
Erdogan said the Russian official’s remarks about handing Afrin over to the Syrian government following the climax of Turkey’s nearly two-month-long offensive were “very wrong.”
On Monday, Lavrov stated that “the easiest way to normalize the situation in Afrin, now that the Turkish representatives say that the main goals they set there have been achieved, would be to return the territory under the control of the Syrian government.”
“President Erdogan has never said that Turkey wants to occupy Afrin,” the Russian Foreign Minister added, according to remarks carried by the Russian government-owned Sputnik news agency.
Responding to Lavrov’s comments, the Turkish President said his government would hand over Afrin to its residents “when the time comes.”
“Lavrov’s approach is not correct. We know better than anyone to which side Afrin should be transferred. When the time comes, we will give Afrin to its inhabitants,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the Turkish army would leave the Kurdish enclave only after a political settlement in the country is reached.
Ankara launched its campaign into Afrin in January, claiming the offensive was meant to secure its southern borders from the threat of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who they argue have ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Erdogan has been notably infuriated with the United States for its backing of the YPG who Washington considers an effective force in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
Turkey’s attack on Afrin killed over 200 civilians and displaced thousands of others.