Turkey says Germany’s northern Syria safe zone plan not realistic

Turkey does not find Germany’s proposal to establish an international safe zone in northeastern Syria realistic, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday during a joint news conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer proposed the idea of creating an international security zone in northeastern Syria this week during the meeting of NATO defence ministers on Thursday and Friday.

Germany’s proposal came after Turkey and Russia on Tuesday agreed on a safe zone deal in northeastern Syria that ended Turkey’s nine-day military incursion into Kurdish-held territories in the region. 

“First of all Germany should reach an agreement (within) itself,” Çavuşoğlu said referring to the differences of opinion between Maas and Kramp-Karrenbauer over the safe zone proposal. 

“But creating a military safe zone at the moment is not a decision Turkey can make alone, it is also not realistic,” Deutsche Welle Turkish quoted the Turkish minister as saying. “We think that it is more proper to focus on humanitarian issues at the moment.”

Germany denounced Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria and suspended new arms sales to its NATO ally as a measure against the offensive. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Maas a "political dilettante" over Germany's decision to halt weapon exports to Turkey, accusing him of being politically inexperienced. 

“We always want to be in close cooperation with Germany,” Çavuşoğlu said. “Unfortunately, we lost our confidence due to excessive reactions that come from Germany to our Operation Peace Spring.”  

Maas said the two countries had serious differences of opinion, but should continue dialogue nevertheless. 

“We wan to continue dialogue with Turkey. We have joint responsibilities as a result of Turkey’s relations with the EU. Turkey is an important NATO ally for Germany,” the German minister said. 

Maas said during their meeting the two ministers talked about urgent matters rather than theories, when asked about the safe zone plan.

“We were told it was not realistic. Therefore we prioritised issues that are more important for us at the moment,” Maas said.