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Turkey defends Afrin operation at UN rights council

 Deputy foreign minister says Turkey is using right to self-defense enshrined in UN charter

By Fatih Erel

GENEVA – Turkish deputy foreign minister on Wednesday described Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin as a legitimate use of the right to self-defense, which is enshrined in the UN charter.

“Mounting threats, acts of terrorism and aggression against our country due to the conflict in Syria have also forced us to undertake an operation outside our national borders,” Ahmet Yildiz said at the 37th annual session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“From Afrin, in northern Syria, more than 700 harassment fires and attacks have targeted the territory of Turkey since the beginning of 2017,” Yildiz said, and added: “The attacks from terrorist organizations such as PKK, PYD/YPG, DAESH and DHKP-C have claimed hundreds or even thousands of innocent civilian lives.”

“To undertake an operation was not a matter of choice. It is indeed a legitimate use of the right to self-defense which is enshrined in the UN charter and the relevant Security Council resolutions. We fully respect the territorial integrity of Syria,” he added.

The deputy foreign minister stressed an utmost care is being given to avoid any harm to civilian population.

He also criticized Fetullah Terrorist Organization, the group behind July 2016 defeated coup that left more than 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

“FETO, a clandestine terrorist organization whose leader continues to stay in the United States, launched a terrorist coup attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey on 15th July 2016…All these were unacceptable,” Yildiz said.


– Rohingya refugee crisis

Noting that the situation of Rohingya Muslims continues to be an important humanitarian crisis, Yildiz said: “To date Turkey has delivered urgent food supplies to Rohingya in need and has completed many projects like building field hospitals.”

“We will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance and to call upon the international community to do the same,” Yildiz said.

More than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since August 25, 2017, when Myanmarforces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the Amnesty International.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on December 12, 2017, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

Voicing concerns over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Yildiz said: “The ongoing occupation continues to destroy human life, freedom and dignity. The recent unilateral and illegal decisions regarding Jerusalem have not only violated international law but also jeopardized the peace process.”

He was referring to the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate Washington’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.

Underlining the violations by different factions in Iraq in the aftermath of Daesh’s occupation, Yildiz said: “After the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) referendum, attacks against the Turkmen community have considerably increased. The internally displaced people in Iraq represents another humanitarian crisis.”

“Using DEASH as a pretext, PKK terrorist organization extended its influence into Sinjar and Kirkuk. It commits grave human rights violations against the indigenous people of the region, especially the Yezidis,” Yildiz added.

– Cyprus issue

Speaking about the Cyprus issue, the deputy foreign minister said: “The Greek Cypriots regrettably still cannot digest the Turkish Cypriots’ political equality. Therefore, any settlement process in the coming period can only be successful if it is based on the realities of the island.”

Indicating that developments regarding the Upper Karabakh are closely followed by Turkey, Yildiz said: “It is certain that a lasting solution can only be attained on the negotiating table. Relevant UN resolutions concerning the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied Azerbaijani territories should be respected, so that forcibly displaced around 1 million IDP’s can return home after 25 years since the invasion.”

Occupied Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijani territory by the international community but was taken over by Armenian secessionists as the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s.

Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.

“Home to millions of citizens of Crimean Tatar descent, we also follow the human rights situation in Crimea diligently. Their safety and well-being continue to be a key priority for us,” the deputy foreign minister added.

Speaking at a conference on disarmament in Geneva, Yildiz said: “Negotiations on a non-discriminatory and verifiable treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosives would be a step in the right direction. Naturally, such a treaty would need to take into account the legitimate security concerns of all.”

“Our ultimate goal is a world without nuclear weapons. The successful and universal implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the right starting point for this.”

Noting that the situation on Korean peninsula is still tense, Yildiz said: “The ballistic missile launches and nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have endangered peace and security. We join the international community in calling upon the DPRK to act responsibly, and to abide by UN Security Council resolutions.”

“We, once again, urge the states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without further delay,” Yildiz said.

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