Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has rebuked his Swedish counterpart who reiterated the EU's position urging Turkey to withdraw from Syria.
Turkey has criticised what it called "arrogant" EU calls for Ankara to withdraw from Syria, accusing the bloc of "double standards".
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu rebuked his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde who reiterated the European Union's position urging Turkey to withdraw from Syria.
"To use the word 'urge' is arrogant and incorrect in diplomacy," Cavusoglu snapped during a news conference in Ankara with Linde standing alongside him on Tuesday.
"You try to teach Turkey about international law and human rights ... but you practise double standards."
"With what authority you asked Turkey to retreat from Syria or warned Turkey in this regard," he asked.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terrorist operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable peaceful settlement by locals: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).
Cavusoglu said Turkish withdrawal from northern Syria would mean backing the PKK listed as a terror group by Turkey, the US and the EU.
"Are you asking Turkey to withdraw from Idlib? No, because in this case refugees would flock to Europe," he said.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with Syrian regime ally Russia.
Turkey targets members of the YPG/PKK terror group in both northern Iraq and Syria, the group responsible for the death of tens of thousands of people in Turkey over past decades.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group and its members frequently attempt to infiltrate into Turkish posts to commit acts of terrorism.
📌Discussed our relations®ional issues including Armenia’s aggression w/FM @AnnLinde of #Sweden.— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) October 13, 2020
📌Wished success for the Term Presidency of @OSCE.
📌Expecting concrete cooperation in fight against terrorism. 🇹🇷🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/7q6zW2KjQU
Turkey wants conditions on Caucasus ceasefire
Cavusoglu said calls for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh are reasonable but must include an Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani lands, and he floated holding talks that would include Ankara.
Cavusoglu said a meeting including all 11 members of the Minsk group (formed to mediate the conflict and led by Russia, the United States and France) would help.
"We find international calls for a ceasefire reasonable. But we can only see the international community's wish to solve this issue if there is a call for Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijani lands as well," Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey is ready to fulfil any criteria for the EU membership, if the bloc wants to negotiate with honesty.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating a humanitarian ceasefire agreed three days ago over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, drawing warnings from international groups of a crisis.
Several world powers have called for an immediate end to the deadly fighting. But Turkey, which is not part of mediation, has staunchly backed Azerbaijan and repeated calls for Armenian withdraw from the region.
Frank and rewarding discussions with my Turkish colleague @MevlutCavusoglu in Ankara. Important exchanges on challenges in neighbourhood (incl. Syria, Eastern Mediterranean), developments in Turkey, as well as Sweden’s chairpersonship of @OSCE 2021. 🇸🇪 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/ekuSJ4Ckmp— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) October 13, 2020
Turkey is one of the Minsk Group's 11 members. Cavusoglu said he made the offer of talks to Linde since Sweden will take up the term presidency of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, under which the Minsk group sits.
"It may be beneficial for us to hold a meeting as the Minsk group," he said. "The Minsk co-chairs (Russia, the United States, France) should also report back to the Minsk group, and steps must be taken already."