March 15, 2018 / 2:49 PM / 2 years ago

Turkey raps European Parliament over call to halt Afrin offensive in Syria

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey slammed a motion approved by the European Parliament on Thursday that calls for a halt to Ankara’s military offensive in northern Syria’s Afrin region, saying it demonstrated “clear support” for militants.

People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin, Syria March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

The non-binding motion also urges Turkey to remove its troops from Afrin, where Ankara is targeting the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in an offensive launched nearly two months ago.

The Parliament’s motion stressed “the need to focus on defeating the U.N.-listed terrorist organizations”, a reference to Islamic State and other militant Islamist groups operating in Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization that is a Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade against the Turkish state. The PKK is deemed a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States as well as by Turkey.

“The latest decision is the most visionless decision the European Parliament has taken in recent years... Calling on Turkey to withdraw its troops is a clear support for terrorist organizations,” Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, told reporters.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also dismissed the motion.

“Don’t get your hopes up, we will not leave there until the job is done. The European Parliament has nothing to say to Turkey and whatever it has to say on this issue will go through one ear and out the other,” he said.

Erdogan is due to meet senior European Union officials later this month in neighboring Bulgaria, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, to discuss EU-Turkey relations as well as regional and international issues.

Ties between Ankara and the EU have gone from bad to worse since a failed 2016 coup in Turkey. The EU has infuriated Erdogan by criticizing the scale of his crackdown on suspected supporters of the coup.

But the EU also depends on Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest army, for support in the security field and for helping to restrict the westward flow of migrants from the Middle East.

The EU’s top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said on Wednesday the bloc would chip in another three billion euros ($3.7 billion) for Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Editing by Gareth Jones

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