Turkish defense minister holds talks with US, European counterparts on Syria op
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and some European counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial summit in Brussels where the Turkish army’s recent operation into northeastern Syria has been widely discussed.
Akar and Esper met on Oct. 25 at the NATO headquarters and discussed security and defense issues in light of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring as well as bilateral military matters.
Turkey and the United States on Oct. 17 agreed on a joint statement that brought about the cessation of the Turkish operation after the YPG withdrew to 30 kilometers south from the Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn strip of the Turkish-Syrian border.
Despite this agreement, the U.S. Pentagon chief has continued to criticize Turkey in a strong-worded statement at a panel held by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels on Oct. 24.
“Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation” by sweeping into northern Syria this month to fight Kurdish militia members who were allied for years with the U.S. in the fight against (ISIL), Esper said. He also argued that Turkey was heading in the wrong direction by shifting from the NATO orbit to the Russian orbit.
In Brussels, Akar also met his British and German counterparts, Ben Wallace and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The meeting with Kramp-Karrenbauer comes after the German defense minister proposed setting up an internationally controlled safe zone in northeastern Syria.
Akar also met with his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos on Oct. 25 and discussed defense and security matters.
He and Panagiotopoulos also exchanged views on the Aegean Sea, Cyprus and developments in Eastern Mediterranean.
Akar emphasized that the problems between Ankara and Athens will be solved within the framework of good neighborly relations and international law.
'Turkey should abide by agreement'
At a press conference following the meetings, Esper told reporters that he held candid discussions with his NATO fellows on all issues, including Akar on Syria.
Esper said the Turkish minister told him that the Turkish army has re-collected a number of ISIL fugitives who could escape from the prisons guarded by the YPG.
“It’s good news,” Esper said.
The Pentagon chief has also urged Turkey to abide by the Turkey-U.S. agreement and investigate allegations of war crimes.