ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish presidential spokesperson on Wednesday said visa liberalization with the European Union in 2018 will boost the country’s relations with the EU states.
Speaking at a news briefing in Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said they expect the visa-free regime to be realized soon.
"The launch of this [visa liberation] in 2018 will accelerate Turkey-EU relations," said Kalin.
Kalin said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will participate in a Turkey-EU summit scheduled to be held in Bulgaria’s Varna city on March 26.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Ankara had finalized a draft document for Turkish citizens to travel to Schengen countries visa-free and would be submitting it to the EU Commission soon.
Under a EU-Turkey readmission agreement signed in March 2016, Ankara is supposed to readmit all irregular asylum seekers who reach Greek islands from Turkey.
Visa liberalization for Turkish citizens traveling to Schengen zone countries is one of the key EU promises made under the deal.
- 'No contact with Assad regime'
Responding to a question about chances of a future contact with Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, Kalin said Turkey will not make such a move.
"We do not have any contact with the [Assad] regime, [and] currently establishing such a contact is out of question," said Kalin.
The question came following remarks by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu that Turkey should meet with the Assad regime.
Kalin added that for a secure future Syria needs a state structure and a leadership which unite its various factions.
He said stakeholders in Syria are plotting to break it up, a situation which threatens its territorial integrity.
"What we call the 'regime' has also become part of this game," Kalin said.
Kalin also rejected propaganda spread against Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the last few days.
"I want to express once more that we regret this. Free Syrian Army is an important part of the legitimate Syrian opposition," he said.
- Sochi summit
Kalin added that attempts to paint FSA as a terror group are aiming to defame Turkey's Operation Olive Branch.
On Jan. 20, Turkey along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched Operation Olive Branch to clear 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 to 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 only terror targets were being destroyed and the "utmost care and sensitivity" were being used to not harm civilians. Turkey to submit final papers on visa free regime to EU.
Speaking about the Syrian National Dialogue Conference held last week in Sochi, Russia, he said: "From our point of view, some mistakes were made."
As a result, some parts of the Syrian opposition did not participate in the summit, he said.
Kalin added that during the summit, an important step was taken to approach Astana and Geneva peace processes regarding Syria.
He said they are working on making a new trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
A Syrian opposition delegation had arrived at Sochi for the summit but later changed their minds when they saw pictures with Assad regime flags on it. Later they allowed Turkey to represent it at the summit.