“Islam is a religion of peace,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
The president’s remarks came during an event at a venue in east London organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) U.K. branch presidency. At the event, Erdoğan and First Lady Emine Erdoğan met representatives of the Turkish community.
Underlining that racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism and hostility towards Islam have recently increased in Europe, Erdoğan said far-right movements are mostly targeting Muslims and the Turkish community.
“The last European Parliament elections have once again demonstrated that identity politics is becoming increasingly dominant in Europe,” he said, adding the media and some politicians have deepened these prejudices with their irresponsible statements.
Erdoğan also underlined Turkey’s fight against terrorism. “Those who think they can discipline Turkey with terrorism and blackmail are embarrassed after failing to achieve their target.”
He added that Turkey is “independent in its foreign policy” and does not seek approval of operations for its own security.
Turkey will not leave the “Operation Peace Spring” area in northern Syria until it is cleared of terrorists, he stressed.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Under two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from a planned Syrian safe zone.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including the most of the 911-kilometer-long Syria-Turkey border.
Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the EU.
The president also conveyed that Turkey currently hosts more than four million Syrians who took refuge within its borders.
He also criticized the EU for failing to fulfill its pledge to financially support Turkey for refugees it hosts.
On bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.K., Erdoğan said the deep-rooted cooperation between the two countries is developing day by day and is getting stronger by acquiring new dimensions.
He stressed that the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and the U.K. reached $18.6 billion in 2018.