German top diplomat to visit Turkey for talks on Syria

BERLIN

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced on Thursday that he will visit Ankara on Oct. 26 to discuss Turkey’s military operation in northeastern Syria.

Addressing lawmakers at the German parliament during a debate on the Middle East, Maas criticized Turkey’s anti-terror operation against the YPG/PKK group in northern Syria, but underlined the importance of dialogue between Ankara and Berlin.

“It’s always better to talk to each other instead of talking about each other, therefore I will be traveling to Ankara on Saturday,” he said, adding that he will meet with his Turkish counterpart and other officials and share Germany’s expectations on Syria.

The Social Democrat politician expressed concerns over the protection of civilian population in northeastern Syria, stability in the region and future of UN-led talks for a political solution to end Syria’s devastating eight-year civil war.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative-left coalition government had acknowledged Ankara’s security concerns in the region but criticized Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northwestern Syria, claiming that it might lead to a “humanitarian crisis, deepen instability” in the region.

Opposition parties and anti-Turkey lobby organizations had sharply criticized the government for not taking a harsher stance against Ankara, and not imposing economic sanctions.

Earlier this month, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate PKK terrorists and its Syrian offshoot YPG/PKK 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.

After strong opposition by the U.S. administration to the operation, Ankara and Washington reached a deal on Oct. 17 to pause the operation for 120 hours to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned safe zone.

On Tuesday, Turkey also reached an agreement with Russia on a 10-point plan to create a terror-free safe zone in northern Syria and they reiterated their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

According to the agreement, PKK/YPG terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Turkey’s border within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols there.

Turkey repeatedly expressed its determination to clear northern Syria of both Daesh and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.

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 deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
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