NATO allies should heed Turkey on Syria: Celik
Turkey’s EU affairs minister Saturday lashed out at Ankara’s NATO allies for indifference to Turkey’s concerns about Syria, Anadolu reported.
“Iran and Russia intervened in Syria, made a lot of mistakes, and caused the deaths of many people. As NATO allies, do we have a consensus on [reaching] a solution in Syria?” said Omer Celik at the Halifax Security Forum in Canada.
“Turkey proposed a no-fly zone, [but] our allies did not support that. We asked for safe zones, our allies did not support that. We said let’s fight terrorist groups, our allies did not support that. Our NATO allies are not showing solidarity with Turkey.”
The EU membership chief negotiator’s comments came alongside French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, former U.S. presidential envoy for anti-Daesh efforts Gen. John Allen, and U.S. Senator John McCain.
The U.S. military has been skeptical of Turkey’s proposal for a safe zone in Syria, citing the difficulties of implementing and protecting it.
The Turkish military launched Operation Euphrates Shield unilaterally with moderate Syrian opposition groups in August, both to rid Daesh from its border from Jarabulus to Azaz, an area of approximately 90 kilometers (60 miles), and to create a safe haven for refugees in an area up to 5,000 square km (3,500 square miles) in northern Syria.
Ankara has been also critical of U.S. support for PKK affiliates the PYD and its military wing the YPG in Syria, saying they are indistinguishable from the terrorist PKK.
Celik said the PKK/PYD or any other group with separatist and sectarian designs will eventually disrupt the social fabric of Syrian and Iraqi society, warning against cooperating with those groups in the fight against Daesh.
"These groups are taking over Arab and other minorities’ lands. After the defeat of Daesh, unrest would persist in these areas, and we should not damage the local fabric of the region,” he added. Noting Turkey’s efforts amid the crisis in its region, Celik said, “Turkey knows better than anyone what it’s like to be a neighbor of a terrorist group,” pointing to the terrorist attacks in Turkish cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir, as Turkey is also shouldering the burden of more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Iraq.
“There will be different outcomes if this situation continues,” he said, referring to the persistent crisis in Syria.
He also warned against Islamophobic rhetoric associating Islam and Daesh.
According to Celik, many people join Daesh from European countries because they are not allowed to express themselves due to anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“People in those countries join extremist groups because they are restricted from expressing themselves and freely expressing their identities,” he said.