Ankara has been a major ally of the international community in the fight against the Daesh terrorist organization, the EU envoy to Turkey said yesterday.
The head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Turkey has been actively fighting against terrorist organization both in and outside its borders due to its thorny regional position. "Turkey has been one of the biggest allies of the international community in the fight against Daesh," he said.
Noting that Ankara has been fighting Daesh and the PKK, a listed terrorist organization by Turkey and the EU, Berger noted that the union as an international community is always eager to maintain dialogue and security cooperation with Turkey against terrorism.
The PKK has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 innocent people in a 30-year terror campaign against the Turkish government. In the last three years, Turkey carried out two cross-border operations, Operation Euphrates Shield launched in August 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, to drive terrorist groups, including the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), and Daesh, from its borders. While the country liberated northwestern territories from Daesh terrorism, it also prevented the YPG from establishing a de facto autonomous region in Syria that Ankara describes as a "terror corridor," posing a grave security threat to its national security.
Touching upon the de-mining activities in areas near the north Turkish border, Berger emphasized that 220,000 land mines are expected to be cleared by the project initiated under the coordination of Turkey and the EU in line with the Ottawa Treaty.
"Even after the [Syrian] war is over and a truce is announced, the mines continue to stay where they are and continue to risk the lives of civilians," he added. The country became a party to the Ottawa Treaty, a worldwide convention for the clearance and banning of anti-personnel mines in 2004 and was granted an extension to the time frame required to destroy all landmines in its territories in 2013 as Turkey failed to meet the first deadline in March 2014. Turkey's efforts to clear landmines were hindered when unrest erupted in Syria in 2011, with which it shares a 915-kilometer-long border, heavily covered with mines.
According to statistics, more than 6,000 people were either maimed or killed between 1984 and 2009 due to landmines in Turkey. Unofficial figures provided by anti-mining activists show seven people were killed in landmine explosions in the past two years and another 29 were wounded.
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