ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM FOREIGN MINISTRY
By Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey hit back Monday at statements by the European Union on recent Turkish moves in northern Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We fully reject and condemn the calls made towards our country and the conclusions adopted in the EU Foreign Affairs Council today in Luxembourg under the title of 'North East Syria' and 'Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean',” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria — Operation Peace Spring — is being carried out on the basis of international law, its right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions on the fight against terrorism.
It is “unacceptable” for the bloc to take a protective attitude towards the terror elements behind the threats and attacks of the PYD/YPG terror group, an offshoot of the PKK, against Turkey’s national security and Syria’s territorial integrity and national solidarity, it said.
The ministry said the silence of the EU on the killing of 18 innocent civilians, including an infant, in the last two days in Turkey by the PYD/YPG — which is supported by some EU countries — shows this twisted approach.
It called on the EU, which “serves the separatist agenda of another terror group under the pretext of fighting Daesh,” and the EU countries that support the terror group to engage in self-criticism.
The bloc has "no right to give lessons to our country" on the fight against terrorists, said the statement.
Stressing that Turkey hosts the highest number of refugees in the world, the ministry said the country will continue to resolutely fight terror groups that threaten its national security and the Syrian people’s future, especially the PYD/YPG and Daesh.
It added that Turkey’s ongoing operation is aimed at the formation of a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border and returning the region to its owners. The ministry also said the operation will let displaced Syrians return home.
On the March 2016 refugee deal with the EU, the ministry said item nine of the deal obligates the EU and its member states to improve conditions for Syrians to live in safer areas of Syrian lands near the Turkish border.
On Monday, the EU Foreign Affairs Council said Turkey's security concerns in northeast Syria should be addressed though political and diplomatic means, not through military action.
The council said in a statement that Turkey should cease its anti-terrorist Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria and withdraw its forces.
Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
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 the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
– Turkey’s activities in Eastern Mediterranean
The ministry also said it is unacceptable to characterize as "illegal" Turkey’s research and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect both its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
The ministry said the EU’s failure to mention Turkish Cypriots and once again ignoring them in the conclusions is “worrisome.”
“We would like to emphasize once again that we will resolutely carry on with our hydrocarbon activities together with the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] and, should the EU apply certain preventive measures, we will retaliate accordingly,” the ministry said.
Forging peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean is possible by creating an environment of cooperation in which every party wins, respecting Turkey and Turkish Cypriots’ legitimate rights and interests and taking the political, legal, historical and geographical realities of the Eastern Mediterranean into consideration.
“We will seriously reconsider our cooperation with the EU in certain areas due to its unlawful and biased stance,” it added.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels — Fatih and Yavuz — to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting Turkey and the TRNC’s right to the region’s resources.