Leaders and organizations around the world have condemned Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish positions in northeast Syria that was launched days after the U.S. troops pulled out of the area.
The Turkish government says it aims to establish a “safe zone” by clearing the Kurdish-led forces as well as the Islamic State (ISIS) that hold territory in the border area and resettle some three million Syrian refugees the country currently hosts.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced the start of “Operation Peace Spring” on his Twitter account, saying it aimed to stop a “terror corridor” emerging along Turkey’s southern frontier.
Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri'miz Suriye Milli Ordusu'yla birlikte Suriye'nin kuzeyinde PKK/YPG ve Deaş terör örgütlerine karşı #BarışPınarıHarekatı'nı başlatmıştır.
Amacımız güney sınırımızda oluşturulmaya çalışılan terör koridorunu yok etmek ve bölgeye barış ve huzuru getirmektir.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 9, 2019
International actors mainly worry that the Turkish offensive in Syria could threaten regional security and pave the way for the revival of the terror group ISIS.
In a statement released by the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump noted that the US “does not endorse this attack”, adding it is a “bad idea”.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also stated in an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday that Trump’s move to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria, which has sparked an outcry at home and abroad, was not a green light for Turkey to launch the offensive.
Pompeo explained that “it became very clear” after a call with Erdogan on Sunday “that there were American soldiers that were going to be at risk and the President made a decision to put them in a place where they were out of harm’s way.”
While acknowledging that Turkey had “legitimate security concerns,” the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has called on Ankara to show “restraint.”
“I count on Turkey to act with restraint and to ensure that any action it may take in northern Syria is proportionate and measured,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome on Wednesday.
He also announced via Twitter that he will discuss the issue with Erdogan on Friday.
#NATO has been informed by Turkish authorities about their ongoing operation in Northern Syria. I count on Turkey to act with restraint & ensure that the gains we have made in the fight against ISIS are not jeopardised. I will discuss this issue with President Erdogan Friday.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) October 9, 2019
The UN Security Council’s president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also urged the Turkish government to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint.”
The EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday told the European Parliament he recognized Turkey had “security concerns” along the border, but demanded Ankara to stop the offensive.
Juncker warned that military action would not lead to a “good result” as a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.
“I have to say if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it,” he said.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed his condemnation for Turkey’s military offensive in northeast Syria in a tweet on Wednesday, adding that they have called on the United Nations Security Council.
“I condemn the unilateral operation launched by Turkey in Syria. It jeopardizes the security and humanitarian efforts of the Coalition against ISIS and risks undermining the security of Europeans. It must stop. The Security Council has been called upon,” he said.
Je condamne l'opération unilatérale lancée par la Turquie en Syrie. Elle remet en cause les efforts sécuritaires et humanitaires de la Coalition contre Daech et risque de porter atteinte à la sécurité des Européens. Elle doit cesser. Le Conseil de sécurité est saisi.
— Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) October 9, 2019
Amelie de Montchalin, European Affairs Minister of France, announced that France, Germany, and Britain were working on a joint declaration “which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn” the Turkish campaign.
Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, condemned the offensive in a statement in Berlin on Wednesday, saying it will “further destabilize the region and strengthen IS.”
“The Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster. We urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests in a peaceful manner,” Maas said, emphasizing that Syria needed stability after eight years of civil war.
Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, made Ottawa’s position clear in a series of late-afternoon tweets, condemning the incursion and calling for the protection of civilians and unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
“This unilateral action risks undermining the stability of an already-fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh [ISIS], of which Turkey is a member,” she underlined.
This unilateral action risks undermining the stability of an already-fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh, of which Turkey is a member.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) October 9, 2019
Expressing “serious concerns” about the Turkish incursion into Syria, the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab highlighted that it “risks destabilizing the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against IS.”
The Egyptian foreign ministry on Wednesday said that the country called for an emergency meeting of the League of Arab States in wake of Turkey’s offensive into Syria.
The ministry condemned the operation in a statement, arguing that it “represents a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state.”
Iraqi President Barham Salih on Wednesday defined Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria as a “grave escalation” on Twitter.
“[It] will cause untold humanitarian suffering, empower terrorist groups. The world must unite to avert a catastrophe, promote a political resolution to the rights of all Syrians, including Kurds, to peace, dignity, and security,” he stated.
Turkey’s military incursion into Syria is a grave escalation; will cause untold humanitarian suffering, empower terrorist groups. The world must unite to avert a catastrophe, promote political resolution to the rights of all Syrians, including Kurds, to peace, dignity & security
— Barham Salih (@BarhamSalih) October 9, 2019
Ankara is reportedly targeting the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spearheaded by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, an important US ally in the war against ISIS.
The YPG is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, due to their ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.