UPDATES WITH MORE BY YILDIRIM, MACEDONIAN PM
By Mehmet Tosun, Enes Kaplan and Nazli Yuzbasioglu
ANKARA (AA) - Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Monday questioned the seriousness of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism and urged it again to drop its support for terror groups.
Speaking at a news conference alongside his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev in capital Ankara, Yildirim said: “The U.S., which we think as our NATO ally and years-long strategic partner, should pull itself together, and come to a proper decision.
“The U.S. should see that fight against a terror group via another one does not comply with a state’s seriousness. It would be nice if the U.S. could see that, if it doesn’t then we will continue to do what is necessary.”
Describing the terror as the biggest threat for Turkey, Yildirim said: “We will not be in a dirty deal.”
The U.S. has long supported the PYD/PKK terror group as a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh, despite strong objections from Ankara, which has documented that the organization is the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey.
Over Turkey’s ongoing operation in Syria’s Afrin, Turkish premier reiterated that the aim of the operation is to ensure the safety of its citizens, as well as of the European Union and the whole Balkans.
He criticized the EU’s ignorance on this issue and said: “We take the necessary steps resolutely to terminate the terror threat both in Afrin and other regions.”
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said that "utmost care" is being used to avoid harming civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.
- Turkey-Macedonia relations
On the bilateral relations between the two countries, Yildirim said Turkey and Macedonia agreed to boost their relations in all areas.
Alongside Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and Turkey’s fight against terrorism, Yildirim also informed his Macedonian counterpart about the regional issues, including Syria and Iraq, and particularly Operation Olive Branch in Afrin during their meeting ahead of the news conference.
Expressing Macedonia’s full support for Turkey’s fight against the FETO, Zaev said his country would take all necessary precautions against the terrorist group.
He said both countries want to improve relations in various areas, including economy, energy, agriculture, industry, and defense. He also emphasized the development of cultural relations.
Speaking about the crisis between Greece and Macedonia, Zaev praised Turkey’s support for the Republic of Macedonia.
"Turkish Republic defends and supports a solution which will be appropriate for both sides. A solution applicable for the NATO and the EU will also suit us,” Zaev noted.
Greece does not accept Macedonia’s name as it has a region by the same name in the north of the country. Greece also argues that the former Yugoslav Republic has claims on its territory and its historical heritage.
Since 2017, negotiations have stepped up, as the new government in Skopje wants a deal over its name with Athens, which can veto its NATO and EU membership.