Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has rejected a German plan for an internationally enforced security zone along Syria’s border with Turkey as “unrealistic” and rebuffed German criticism of Ankara’s recent military operation in Syria.
After meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in the capital Ankara on Saturday, Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference that Turkey’s trust in Germany “has been shaken” following “excessive reactions” against its offensive into northeast Syria.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s recently proposed an internationally controlled security zone in north Syria under the United Nations umbrella to protect fleeing civilians and de-escalate the situation with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters in the war-torn country.
“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.”
On October 9, 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.
Last week, Turkey and Russia agreed on a deal to halt the Turkish offensive. The agreement requires that Russian military police and Syrian border guards remove the Kurdish forces from within 30km (19 miles) of the Turkish border by next Tuesday.
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 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.
The German foreign minister also said Ankara reassured Berlin that it will comply with international law as part of Turkey’s plans to relocate refugees to the planned “safe zone” in northeastern Syria.
Turkey will handle the situation in a “humanitarian way”, Cavusoglu said.
Earlier in the week, rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch alleged in separate reports that the Turkish government has been forcibly deporting refugees to war-torn Syria.
Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javid, reporting from the Turkish-Syrian border, said that the meeting between two foreign ministers was an effort for the sides to build bridges despite their divergent positions on recent developments in Syria.
“The European Union and Germany are concerned about the territorial integrity of Syria and forcible return of refugees,” he said.
“Meanwhile, Turkey insists that the EU allies are not standing behind it when it needs them the most. It wants the EU backing while its fight against what is says ‘terrorists’ on the border.”