MIDDLE EAST

Syria solution should be political, not military: EU

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The solution to the Syria crisis should be a political and not a military one, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Christian Berger said the crisis needs a solution that also includes Syrians in finding a political settlement of the problem.

Berger said that both Turkey and the EU are working together and support the UN-led process in Geneva.

Negotiations for a political transition in Syria began in Geneva in June 2012 under the supervision of the UN.

"If we don't find a political solution, this will continue," he added.

The bloc's ambassador also praised Turkey's fight against the terrorism, saying the country and the EU continue dialogue on counter-terrorism issue.

He said that Turkey is in a "very difficult geographical situation" with a civil war going on in Syria, a conflict in Iraq against the Daesh terrorist organization, as well as fighting against the PKK.

In the last two years, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations liberated the region of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, allowing hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians to return to their homes.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children. The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch.

"Turkey is an important ally of the international community's coalition in the fight against Daesh," he added.

EU helps Turkey on mine clearance

Berger said that the EU runs a very comprehensive project with Turkey on clearing mines at the eastern borders of the country.

"Mines are instrument of war," he said, adding that Turkey together with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) runs a mine clearance project which targets to dispose 220,000 land mines.

The "Socioeconomic Development through Demining and Increasing the Border Surveillance Capacity at the Eastern Borders of Turkey" project was developed in 2014 and is funded by the EU.

It is the first partnership of UNDP in Turkey with the Ministry of National Defense, Turkish General Staff and Ministry of Interior in the field of mine clearance, according to the UNDP.

He recalled that many countries -- including Turkey and the EU member states -- are members of the "Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction", also known as the Ottawa Treaty.

Turkey joined the convention in 2004, Berger said, adding that since that time the UN helps to remove the mines that have been laid during the cold war period.

The project volume is about €40 million (around $45.2 million) and co-founded by both the EU and the Turkish government, he said.

Berger said that apart from removing mines, the project also targets to repair the area for the border management, strengthen the capacity of the organizations in Turkey that deal with the mine clearance, as well as create awareness of the danger of mines among the civil population, particularly among kids who are running and playing in this area.

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