Ankara’s operation against Kurdish-led militias in northeastern Syria has been criticized across Europe and the Middle East, as one country after another sounded the alarm over the impact to the Syrian peace process.
The offensive by Turkish army and affiliated Syrian “opposition” militants kicked off on Wednesday with massive air and artillery strikes, followed by a land invasion dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring.’
The EU has condemned the invasion and urged Turkey to halt it, expressing doubt the proclaimed goal of establishing a “safe zone” where refugees could return would be reached. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Ankara should not “expect the EU to pay for any of” the said zone.
“The EU calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action,” the 28 members of the bloc said in a joint statement. “It is unlikely that a so-called ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return.”
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Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his Turkish counterpart to “gauge the situation comprehensively” so that Ankara’s actions would not undermine the peace process in Syria.
An extraordinary UN Security Council meeting to assess the situation in Syria has been called by France and the UK and is expected to be held behind closed doors on Thursday, according to media reports.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Turkish actions were “jeopardizing the anti-Islamic State coalition’s security and humanitarian efforts,” while his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok condemned the invasion and summoned Ankara’s envoy over it.
Egypt has urged the UNSC to halt “any attempts to occupy Syrian territories” and condemned the Turkish aggression in the “strongest terms,” calling for an emergency meeting of the League of Arab States as well. Similar reactions came from Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Iran and others.
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The invasion began two days after US President Donald Trump decided to pull US troops out from northeastern Syria, in a move his critics – but also some allies – have condemned as an open betrayal of the Kurdish-led militias, namely the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The SDF have served as ground troops for the US-led campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists since 2015. However, Turkey – a long-time NATO ally – has complained about Washington providing weapons and training to the groups that it perceives as a threat to its security and has designated as terrorists.
Trump insisted that he did not endorse the Turkish invasion in any way, calling it a “bad idea,” and yet again promised to “wipe out” Turkey’s economy if Ankara fails to protect civilians and religious minorities, or fails to ensure no humanitarian crisis takes place.
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