10:49 GMT10 July 2020
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    Turkey Starts Operation 'Olive Branch' in Syria (60)

    Although the rift between the EU and Turkey is steadily growing, there are clear signs that Brussels does not want to lose Ankara, especially in light of Russo-Turkish political and economic rapprochement, Turkish political observers told Sputnik.

    Europe does not regard Turkey as a reliable partner and guarantor of security, while Ankara is similarly dubious about the EU, political scientist Sezgin Mercan told Sputnik Turkey, commenting on the upcoming March 26 Turkey-EU summit in Varna.

    "This summit is important in terms of maintaining open diplomatic channels between the parties," Mercan said. "However, it seems that under the current circumstances, tensions will continue to exist between Turkey and the EU. Yet another important point is the parties' conservative policies, which lead to the increase in confrontation… What we are witnessing is the growth of national self-awareness. Meanwhile, Turkey has put the idea of EU membership on the back burner, prioritizing its own national interests. This process has prompted growing discord between Brussels and Ankara."

    According to the Turkish political scientist, a number of serious problems prevent the parties from further rapprochement; one of them is Ankara's Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria, which was kick-started on January 20, 2018.

    On March 15 the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire across Syria, including Afrin, and expressed "deep concerns" over the "escalation of violence" in Afrin, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.

    In response, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that that the Turkish Armed Forces will continue the operation until its objectives are fulfilled.

    "Don't get your hopes up. We will only leave Afrin once our work is done," Erdogan stated in a March 15 speech in Ankara.

    Mercan slammed the decision of the European Parliament (EP) on the Turkish withdrawal from Afrin. The political scientist pointed out that Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch to ensure the security of both Turkey and Europe.

    He stressed that the EU has designated the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization only on paper, adding that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara regards as a PKK affiliate, "operates freely in Europe."

    "Europe and Turkey cannot reach a compromise, not only on the PYD issue and Syria, but also on many other points related to foreign policy," Mercan highlighted.

    A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) carries his weapon as he stands past a tank in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasakah, Syria, August 22, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) carries his weapon as he stands past a tank in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasakah, Syria, August 22, 2016.

    Can Baydarol, vice president of the EU and Globalization Studies Association, echoed Mercan, stressing that the resolution adopted by the European Parliament is not legally-binding.

    "Not only the EP decision on Afrin, but many other decisions made earlier by this structure had been categorically rejected by Turkey," Baydarol highlighted. "Ankara's statement that Turkey will remain in Afrin until all the tasks within the framework of the operation are fulfilled indicates that Ankara does not intend to take the EP decision into account."

    The Turkish scholar presumed that the Afrin operation may prompt further escalation of tensions between the EU and Turkey.

    According to Baydarol, the Turkish military campaign in northern Syria will obviously be one of the topics of the Turkey-EU summit. At the same time, he expressed doubts that the EP resolution could seriously affect the results of the meeting.

    The scholar highlighted that regardless of the EP's tough rhetoric towards Ankara, Brussels "doesn't want to lose Turkey."

    "Recently, [the EU] have witnessed a close rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, which prompts serious concerns on the Western front," Baydarol said. "Therefore, I believe that during this summit the EU will demonstrate a moderate approach towards Turkey."

    He referred to the EU's recent decision to send a second tranche of €3 billion ($3.68 billion) to support Syrian refugees in Turkey as a potential sign of Brussels' willingness to take steps toward mending fences with Ankara.

    The first tranche was transferred in 2016, comprising "€1 billion ($1.22 billion) from the EU budget and €2 billion ($2.45 billion) from member states' contributions."

    Furthermore, it is possible that the issue of visa facilitation will also be included in the summit's agenda, Baydarol stressed.

    On March 26, President Erdogan is due to meet with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Bulgaria's Black Sea seaside resort of Varna. Previously, a similar summit took place in Brussels in May 2017.

    The views and opinions expressed by Sezgin Mercan, Can Baydarol are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Turkish Operation in Afrin
    © Sputnik /
    Turkish Operation in Afrin

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Turkey Starts Operation 'Olive Branch' in Syria (60)


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    Syrian refugees, resolution, military operation, Operation Olive Branch, The Syrian war, European Parliament, European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Afrin, Europe, Turkey, United States, Russia
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