Meanwhile, the number of detainees across Turkey over their posts on social media has increased to 58 on Monday. The detainees have been accused of promoting the PYD/PKK terrorist group on their social media accounts.
The White House on Monday urged Turkey to exercise restraint after Turkish forces launched a military campaign in Syria’s Afrin region, warning that the campaign risked exacerbating a humanitarian crisis and disrupting what had been a stable area.
In its first official statement on the issue, the White House has asked Turkey to limit the scope and duration of its operations in northwest Syria. “We urge Turkey to exercise restraint in its military actions and rhetoric, ensure that its operations are limited in scope and duration, ensure humanitarian aid continues and avoid civilian casualties,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a briefing.
The White House reiterates the reassuring tone taken by US officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson since last week, to assure Turkey that it “take(s) seriously Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.”
However, the statement warns that the operation and increased violence could disrupt a “relatively stable” area of Syria, “risks exacerbating the humanitarian crisis,” and “could be exploited” by extremist jihadist groups the ISIL and Al-Qaeda.
GABREL ON THE TARGET BECAUSE OF GERMAN TANKS USED BY TURKISH ARMY
Meanwhile, it was reported that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is under fire from opposition lawmakers and even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives for failing to speak up earlier, and for moving toward approving Ankara’s request to have German arms maker Rheinmetall upgrade its German-built tanks.
German concerns about Turkey’s advance could complicate an emerging rapprochement between the NATO allies that gathered momentum when Gabriel and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met in Germany this month. The two countries last week resumed bilateral government consultations, which had been suspended after Ankara’s arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel in February 2017, although the Yücel case remains a major irritant.
According to a report by Reuters, Norbert Roettgen, a conservative foreign policy expert and lawmaker, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper the Turkish military operation was in violation of international law, and Gabriel should halt any plans to approve the tank upgrades. He said it was “completely obvious” that Germany could not provide Turkey with tank upgrades at such a time.
Agnieszka Brugger, a Greens lawmaker, said the Turkish military operation demonstrated the devastating impact that German weapons sales could have overseas. “An immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue,” she told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper. “This intense situation should be a wake-up call for the German government.”
A German defense ministry spokesman on Monday confirmed that Turkey had purchased over 750 tanks from Germany in the 1980s, 1990s and late 2000s, but said he had no direct knowledge aside from photographs circulating in the media that the tanks were being used in Syria.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr declined comment on a report in the magazine Der Spiegel that Germany was moving toward approval of a Turkish request for Rheinmetall to upgrade and modernize its Leopard tanks.
Gabriel had told reporters after meeting Çavuşoğlu that major arms sales to Turkey would remain off limits until Yücel’s case was resolved, but signaled that Berlin would review Ankara’s request to add protective gear to its existing tanks. Turkish government wants to reinforce the tanks against improvised explosive devices and mines, and is also seeking a sensor system to protect them against anti-tank projectiles.
TURKISH SOLDIER KILLED IN CLASHES NEAR AFRIN
On Monday, a Turkish soldier was killed in clashes near Syria’s Afrin region, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a statement on Monday. According to a Turkish General Staff statement, a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces and the terrorist groups took place southeast of the Turkish village of Gülbaba, just across the Syrian border. In the statement, the General Staff conveyed its condolences to the families and friends of the fallen soldier.
Turkey launched military operations against the Kurdish forces in control of Afrin in northwest Syria last Saturday, after the announcement on Jan. 14, 2018 that a US-backed border force would be established including fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an armed majority-Kurdish group that Turkey considers an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).