Erdoğan to visit Syria for security talks

Erdoğan to visit Syria for security talks

Prime Minister Erdoğan (L) and German Chancellor Merkel addressed a news conference following their talks in Berlin.

October 11, 2010, Monday/ 16:29:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit neighboring Syria today for talks expected to focus on regional cooperation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Erdoğan will then travel to flood-stricken Pakistan on Tuesday, before returning to Turkey on Wednesday. Although Erdoğan’s visit to Pakistan was expected, his Syrian visit – during which he will be accompanied by Interior Minister Beşir Atalay – came as a surprise, only being announced on Saturday. Erdoğan’s visit was arranged following an Oct. 3 meeting of top Syrian and Turkish officials, during which the two countries pledged to stop any attempts at hampering strategic cooperation in the Middle East region, including the PKK activities.

The officials made the pledge in the Syrian port city of Latakia, which hosted the second ministerial meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council between the two neighboring countries.

In Latakia, the two sides agreed that an already existing framework security cooperation arrangement, based on the Adana Protocol, which was signed in 1998 and paved the way for improved Turkish-Syrian bilateral relations.

Joint commission with Germany

The government, meanwhile, is using every opportunity to gain support from EU member countries for its fight against the PKK. On Saturday Erdoğan had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the two watched the Germany-Turkey 2012 UEFA European Football Championship qualifying match in Berlin on Friday night.

Turkey and Germany will cooperate closely in combating terrorism, and the two interior ministries have founded a commission for this purpose, Merkel announced, while speaking at a joint press conference following talks with Erdoğan.

Ankara has long criticized European countries for turning a blind eye to the PKK’s fundraising and propaganda activities on their soil. Last year, Turkey started an intensive diplomatic campaign with European governments to cut the PKK’s financial sources in European countries, something the US has also put pressure on European governments to block.

In Berlin, Erdoğan also expressed Ankara’s increasing frustration at the speed of EU accession talks. “The process must not slow,” Erdoğan said at the joint press conference, adding the EU would have to keep its promises and calling on Germany for support. The European Commission is finalizing its annual report on Turkey’s progress to EU standards. The impasse over Greek Cyprus – an EU member that Turkey has refused to recognize – will likely be seen as the main outstanding problem.

Merkel said both sides on the divided Mediterranean island – the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots – would have to move to break the impasse. “Where a problem must be solved, both sides have to move,” she said. She also said she would travel to Cyprus in January to offer Germany’s help.

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