Bahceli’s remarks on Germany show unity: Turkish PM

ANKARA -Turkey's prime minister Monday praised remarks by an opposition party leader backing Ankara's position in the dispute over Germany banning Turkish officials' rallies, saying the remarks showed "unity".

In a TV interview, Binali Yildirim said opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli's attitude served as a good message to Europe and how it is treating the April 16 Turkish constitutional referendum.

"This was a good message to Europe and I think it is important to show how Turkey is united in national affairs," Yildirim said.

Earlier on Monday, Bahceli told a Turkish TV channel that he would be glad to accompany President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a potential rally in Europe.

"If the president decides to go to Europe, he is not alone in his decision. As the MHP leader, I would go to Europe along with him," Bahceli said.

Yildirim also told how in a phone call on Saturday he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the recent rally ban crisis between the two countries.

"We clearly expressed Turkey's concerns on the issue. Democracy means freedom, democracy means sharing ideas without being subject to any restrictions."

"If Germany does this [a rally ban], it makes what they say to Turkey about democracy meaningless," Yildirim said.

Relations between Turkey and Germany plunged to a new low last week after local German authorities cancelled rallies of Turkey's justice and economy ministers, who were scheduled to meet the representatives of Germany's 3 million-strong Turkish community, on the proposed constitutional changes.

On Sunday, Erdogan slammed German authorities for undermining the freedom of expression and right to assembly, saying such policies "are no different from the Nazi ones of the past".

Nearly 1.5 million Turkish residents in Germany are eligible to vote in Turkey's April 16 referendum on constitutional reforms, which include a switch to a presidential system of governance.

Turkish citizens in Germany can cast their votes at Turkish consulates between March 27 and April 9.

- Syrian jet crashes in Hatay

In other remarks on Monday, Yildirim said the pilot of the Syrian regime fighter jet that crashed in Turkey is still undergoing treatment.

A decision on whether to deport him would be made after the whole event is clarified, Yildirim said.

He said family members of the pilot have made a request to visit him in Turkey, adding, "I think it is appropriate to allow that."

The jet crashed in Hatay province near the Turkish-Syrian border late Saturday.

A Syrian opposition group has claimed it shot down a regime aircraft. The pilot has been found alive after ejecting safely.

- Manbij operation against PYD/PKK

Regarding the Syrian city of Manbij, Yildirim said: "There is no point in doing an operation without coordinating with Russia and the US there."

He added that "the consequences may become more complicated" if Turkey-backed opposition forces take actions in Manbij without coordinating with the actors on the ground.

"Therefore, military, technical level negotiations continue" with Russia and the U.S., the prime minister said.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of Manbij from Daesh in August with the support of coalition air cover, and on-the-ground trainers and advisers.

The SDF is led by the YPG, a group the U.S. has consistently relied on as its principal partner in the anti-Daesh fight in northern Syria.

Turkey has designated the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK. The U.S. and EU have similarly labeled the PKK, but have refrained from following suit on the YPG, to Ankara's consternation.

Turkey has insisted YPG elements leave Manbij and withdraw east of the Euphrates River.

Source: Anadolu Agency