Turkey, Middle East

Turkey 'won't allow provocations to damage Idlib deal'

US' Syria pullout should not serve divisive agenda of terrorist PYD/YPG, says Foreign Ministry

Turkey 'won't allow provocations to damage Idlib deal' Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy holds a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on January 18, 2019. ( Fatih Aktaş - Anadolu Agency )


Turkey will not allow terrorist provocations to damage the deal to keep the peace in Idlib, Syria, a Turkish official said on Friday.

"The U.S. withdrawal process from Syria should not serve the divisive agenda of the terrorist PYD/YPG. There should not be a fait accompli on the ground," Hami Aksoy, Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters in the capital Ankara.

Aksoy stressed the PYD/YPG was hit hard during Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Syria last year, and that 300,000 Syrians returned to the terrorist-free zone.

"A great human tragedy was prevented by the Idlib, Syria deal. The deal won the appreciation of the international community," he added.

Liberating Manbij from the PYD/YPG is a matter of national security for us, Aksoy said, adding:

"A terrorist attack happened in Manbij. It was a terrorist attack, which revealed the importance of the full implementation of the road map and clearing the region from terrorist organizations."

The remarks came in the wake of a Daesh attack on Wednesday which killed 16 people, including four U.S. soldiers.

Turkish officials said the attack might have been meant to derail the U.S. plan to withdraw from Syria, announced in December after U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Following a meeting last September between Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib are to remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct joint patrols in the area to prevent renewed fighting.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch.

Erdogan will pay a visit to Russia on Jan. 23 to discuss the issue of the safe zone in northern Syria with Putin, said the spokesman.

"We are very positive about the U.S. proposal for the safe-zone in the region. We believe that this will be a significant development in the context of Syria and we support it. We will continue our talks with our Russian partners on this theme," said Aksoy.

Busy diplomacy traffic

In a Monday phone call, Erdogan and Trump discussed the idea of establishing a terror-free safe zone in northern Syria.

Aksoy also said a delegation headed by Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal will visit the U.S. on Feb. 5 to discuss Syria and fight against terrorist groups.

The Turkish diplomat said the U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is expected to meet with Erdogan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar and Turkish Intelligence Organization (MIT) President Hakan Fidan in Ankara on Friday.

We hope to gain momentum in EU-Turkey relations under Romania's EU presidency, said Aksoy, adding that they expect developments on visa liberalization and the updating of the Customs Union.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and its accession talks began in 2005.

But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration as well as opposition from Germany and France.

Reporting by Tugrul Cam, Enes Canli:Writing by Beyza Binnur Donmez

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