Turkey has launched a military operation against Kurdish positions in northeast Syria, just days after US troops pulled out of the area.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the offensive is aimed at removing Kurdish-led forces from the border area and creating a “safe zone” in order to eventually allow millions of Syrian refugees to be resettled.
The US announced on Monday it was withdrawing its troops from the region, effectively abandoning the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its main ally in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
The SDF, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), has appealed to the US and its allies for a “no-fly zone” to protect it from the Turkish attacks. Turkey considers the YPG a “terrorist” group.
Here are some statements from around the world regarding Turkey’s military operation:
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said any military operation must fully respect the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.
Spokesman Farhan Haq said: “Civilians and civilian infrastructure should be protected. The secretary-general believes that there’s no military solution to the Syrian conflict.”
The UN Security Council’s president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint”.
EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker demanded Turkey to halt its military operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called “safe zone” that might be created.
The EU’s top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini warned that “unilateral action on Turkey’s part threatens” concerted action by the West and Turkey and other countries to defeat ISIL.
Turkish military action, she said, risked “protracted instability in northeast Syria, providing fertile ground for the resurgence of Daesh”.
Keeping captured ISIL fighters in Syria secure is “imperative in order to prevent them from joining the ranks of terrorist groups,” she added.
Analysis: The potential impact of Turkey’s offensive against the SDF
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to show “restraint”, while acknowledging that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns”.
“It’s important to avoid actions that may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome.
“I count on Turkey to act with restraint and to ensure that any action it may take in northern Syria is proportionate and measured.”
Hossam Zaki, deputy secretary general of the Arab League said that foreign ministers from around the region will be meeting in Cairo on Saturday to discuss Turkey’s military operation.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the pan-Arab organisation said that Turkey’s incursion is a “blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and threatens Syria’s integrity”.
He added that Turkey’s incursion also threatens to inflame further conflicts in eastern and northern Syria, and “could allow for the revival” of ISIL.
Egypt’s foreign ministry condemned the offensive as “a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state”. It called for an emergency meeting of the League of Arab States.
Saudi Arabia said the offensive would undermine the region’s security and the battle against ISIL.
The Turkish army’s “aggression” would have “negative repercussions on the security and stability of the region”, the foreign ministry said on Twitter.
It would also “undermine international efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist group”.
#KSA pointed out that the seriousness of this aggression on northeastern Syria has negative repercussions on the security and stability of the region, especially undermining the int’l efforts in combating ISIS organization.
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) October 9, 2019
Syria’s Foreign Ministry condemned Turkey’s plans, calling it a “blatant violation” of international law and vowing to repel an incursion.
Iraqi President Barham Salih called Turkey’s “incursion” a “grave escalation” on Twitter.
“[It] 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 and security,” Salih said.
In a statement, the UAE foreign ministry said that the aggression represents a dangerous development and a blatant and unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state in contravention of the rules of international law.
The Bahrain foreign ministry condemned the offensive according to state news agency BNA.
The statement said Bahrain supports the call for an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council to take a unified Arab stand towards the aggression.
Kuwait said on Wednesday that the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria is a direct threat to stability and peace in the region and called for restraint, the state news agency reported.
Analysis: Turkey’s new offensive against Syria’s Kurdish-led SDF forces
US President Donald Trump said Turkey’s air assault was “a bad idea” not backed by the United States, and called on Ankara to protect religious minorities.
“The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
“Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place – and we will hold them to this commitment.”
Ahead of the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Erdogan to “think carefully” before taking any action.
“Putin called on his Turkish partners to think carefully about the situation so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis,” the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement he had “serious concerns about the unilateral military action that Turkey has taken”.
“This risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Turkey’s operation would lead to further destabilisation of the region and could strengthen ISIL. He urged Turkey to end the operation.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on his Twitter feed that the operation “is jeopardising the anti-Islamic State coalition’s security and humanitarian efforts and is a risk for the security of Europeans. It has to end.”
French Defence Minister Florence Parly said that the Turkish offensive is dangerous and should stop.
“[It is] dangerous for the security of the Kurds. Dangerous because it benefits Islamic State, which we have been fighting for five years. It must stop,” Parly wrote on Twitter.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the operation risked destabilising the region and harming civilians.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said he has summoned the Turkish ambassador.
“I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen,” Blok said on Twitter. “No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS and stability in the region.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted: “Deeply concerned about Turkish military operation in Syria.
In my view, this is a regrettable and wrong decision, which can have serious consequences for civilians and the fight against ISIL. Turkey must show restraint. Denmark is in close contact with allies on the matter.”