Merkel urges Erdogan to exercise 'restraint' in Syria as US prepares for withdrawal

Merkel urges Erdogan to exercise 'restraint' in Syria as US prepares for withdrawal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Turkey to act with 'restraint and responsibility' as the US prepare to withdraw its forces from Syria.
2 min read
30 December, 2018
Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with President Erdogan via telephone on Sunday [AFP]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday pressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act with restraint as US forces prepare to fully withdraw from Syria. 

The two leaders spoke in a telephone conversation amid ongoing preparations by Turkey for a military assault against Kurdish rebels in Syria.

Merkel stressed to Erdogan the importance of the UN-led political process in efforts to end the conflict in Syria, according to her office.

A statement from the chancellor's office said the Islamic State group has been pushed back but remains a "significant danger" in Syria.

Merkel "expressed the expectation that Turkey would react with restraint and responsibility to the announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria", the statement said.

On Saturday, Russian and Turkish ministers agreed to maintain cooperation in northern Syria as US forces prepare to withdraw and Turkey threatens to launch a military operation against US-backed Kurdish forces.

US President DOnald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria was greeted with approval by Turkey, which will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey views the US-backed YPG militia as a sister "terrorist" organisation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. 

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.