Turkey rejects German security zone plan

Countrys foreign minister describes the German proposal as “unrealistic”

Photo: Reuters Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and his German counterpart Heiko Maas shake hands, in Ankara, Turkey, October 26, 2019.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has rejected a German plan for an internationally enforced security zone along Syria's border with Turkey as "unrealistic", rebuffing German criticism of Ankara's recent military operation in Syria.

The statement followed a meeting between Cavusogly and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in the capital Ankara on Saturday, with Cavusoglu adding at a joint news conference that Turkey's trust in Germany "has been shaken" due to its "excessive reactions" against its offensive into northeast Syria.

"We find this proposal not very realistic," Cavusoglu said. "This does not concern Turkey alone, there are now the [Syrian] regime, Russia and other actors in this area."

The comments regarded a proposal recently issued by German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's about the creation of an internationally controlled security zone in north Syria under the United Nations umbrella, aimed at protecting fleeing civilians and de-escalating the situation with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters in the war-torn country.

On 9 October, Turkey launched an offensive aimed at carving out a so-called "safe zone" cleared of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it considers "terrorists". It says it also wants to repatriate some of the 3.6 million refugees currently residing on its soil to the area. In response, German Foreign Minister Maas described the military offensive as an "invasion" and Germany has said it will not issue any new permits for military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu then said Ankara expects Berlin to "act with the spirit of alliance" and "side with Turkey in its fight against terrorism".

"We are having difficulty explaining to our people that Germany is siding with a terror organisation instead of Turkey despite understanding Turkey's legitimate security concerns," Cavusoglu said.

In the meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed a criminal complaint against a French magazine after it accused him of conducting "ethnic cleansing" in northeastern Syria in a cover story entitled "The Eradicator". According to state-owned Anadolu Agency Erdogan had asked prosecutors to open a case against Etienne Gernelle, the managing editor of Le Point magazine, and Romain Gubert, the author of the story. 

Erdogan's lawyer Huseyin Aydin said the cover was "publicly insulting" to the president - a crime in Turkey carrying a prison sentence up to four years and eight months.

A source in the Ankara public prosecutor's office told AFP news agency that an investigation had also been launched after the complaint. 

Le Point's cover uses a photo of Erdogan giving a military salute with a tagline reading: "Ethnic cleansing, Erdogan style" and another asking "Will we let him massacre Kurds (and threaten Europe)?".

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