October 26, 2019 / 11:52 AM / 24 days ago

Turkey says won't tolerate any rights violations in northeast Syria

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey will not tolerate any human rights violations in northeast Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday, as a ceasefire holds in a border area where Ankara sent in troops this month targeting Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his German counterpart Heiko Maas shake hands, in Ankara, Turkey, October 26, 2019. REUTERS/ Alp Eren Kaya

Cavusoglu, speaking at a joint news conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, said Turkey was providing humanitarian aid to civilians in the area but said a German proposal for an international safe zone was “unrealistic”.

“We will investigate to the very end even the smallest bit of violation (of human rights) and complaint. We won’t tolerate even the least violation of human rights violations,” Cavusoglu said.

Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on Oct. 9 after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out around 1,000 American troops who had been in the area to help their Kurdish allies combat Islamic State militants.

Ankara regards the YPG as terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents operating in southeast Turkey.

Turkey halted its military offensive last week under a U.S.-brokered ceasefire. Under an accord then negotiated with Russia, Syrian border guards and Russian military police have now begun clearing the YPG from within 30 km (19 miles) of the Syrian-Turkish frontier.

From Tuesday Russian and Turkish forces will start to patrol a narrower, 10-km strip of land in northeast Syria.

Turkey’s NATO allies, including the United States, have criticized its military incursion in northeast Syria, fearing it will undermine the fight against Islamic State militants.

Germany’s defense minister presented to NATO on Thursday her proposal for a security zone on the Turkish-Syrian border. It received initial support from both Turkey and the United States, but on Saturday Cavusoglu said it was not realistic.

The plan would require the support of Russia, the most powerful outside player in Syria and a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Gareth Jones

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