By Nilay Kar Onum
ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey’s Foreign Ministry blasted on Friday a statement by a senior U.N. aid official associating the safe zone to be established in northern Syria to Srebrenica genocide.
"We strongly condemn and totally reject the statement made by Panos Moumtzis, United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, in which he relates the safe zone to be established in north-east Syria with the Srebrenica genocide," ministry's spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Monday, Moumtzis said: ''For us as the UN, the safe zone concept is one that we have a bitter history (with) and actually we never promote or encourage. We don’t think it is something that had worked for the UN, keeping in mind Srebrenica and what had happened in the past.''
Turkey’s reaction to "this irresponsible statement, in which the Regional Coordinator oversteps his limits, has already been conveyed to UN officials," Aksoy said.
He stressed that Turkey made the utmost effort in order to prevent the Srebrenica genocide saying that it is "well known by a UN official coming from this region.''
Turkish public opinion was "highly sensitive on the Srebrenica genocide and thereby its abuse by a distorted mindset is utterly unacceptable," he added.
The spokesperson also said: "The fact that the said person has not shown any sensitivity while the terror organization PYD/YPG has applied oppression and violence foremost against Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arameans and all the people of the region, can also be seen as a manifestation of an unhealthy point of view".
On Wednesday, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders and Syria’s territorial integrity by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees.
Turkey has said the PKK terrorist group and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.
Ankara has also stressed that supporting terrorists under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.
Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.
Turkey plans to resettle two million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide proposed safe zone in Syria stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD and YPG risk its formation.
Turkey has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria — Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch — to eradicate threats from Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.
The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity.
During Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish forces neutralized 3,060 Daesh terrorists.
Turkey has suffered greatly from Daesh attacks inside the country.
More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings and armed attacks in recent years.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.