Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

UAE's Gargash joins Arab world in condemning Turkey offensive in Syria

Nato, the UN and European countries condemn the incursion into Syrian territory

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash has joined the almost unanimous condemnation from across the Arab world of Turkey as it launched an offensive in Syria on Wednesday evening.

“The broad Arab condemnation of the Turkish aggression against Syria is not surprising,” the minister tweeted. “…the international position rejecting the Turkish aggression stems from the foundations of international law and a common realization that this step will complicate the already complicated scene.”

State-run Wam news agency ran a statement from the UAE foreign ministry describing the Turkish offensive as “a dangerous development and a blatant and unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state in contravention of the rules of international law.”

From across the Gulf region, almost all governments echoed Dr Gargash’s comments, with Saudi state TV saying the government was concerned at the developments and condemned the offensive.

Kuwait called the offensive a direct threat to stability and peace in the region and called for restraint while Bahrain called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in order to find a unified regional position on the aggression as Manama condemned the fighting.

Egypt too called for an Arab League meeting and the body announced shortly after that there would be an emergency summit on Saturday to discuss the Turkish offensive.

Egypt's foreign ministry, in a statement on Wednesday, "condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish aggression on Syrian territory," saying the offensive "represents a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state."

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi discussed the Turkish offensive with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih in a phone call on Wednesday evening, Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Rady said, according to state-run Akhbar Elyom.

"The Turkish aggression ... represents a dangerous development that threatens international peace and security and exacerbates the crisis situation in the region," Mr Rady said.

The Arab League, which groups 22 states including Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, said in a statement on Wednesday that Saturday's meeting would be at the ministerial level "to discuss the Turkish aggression" on Syrian territory.

"It constitutes an unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of an Arab member state of the League," Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki said.

World governments also reacted with concern on Wednesday after Turkey launched the military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

And the UN Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the assault, which Ankara named Operation Peace Spring.

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," Mr Stoltenberg said in Rome.

The UN Security Council's president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to protect civilians and exercise "maximum restraint".

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the incursion into northern Syria a "bad idea".

Mr Trump insisted Washington "does not endorse this attack", despite having withdrawn US troops from the area in what was interpreted as approval for Turkey to assault its chief allies in the war against ISIS.

This week, he said he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if Ankara went too far.

The US and the UK also expressed concern over the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

Ina phone call before the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "think carefully" before taking any action, "so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis".

Mr Erdogan told Mr Putin that the offensive "will contribute to Syria's peace and stability and ease the path to a political solution".

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker demanded a halt to the operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any "safe zone" that might be created.

Mr Juncker told the European Parliament that he recognised Turkey had "security concerns" along the border.

But he warned that the military action would not lead to a "good result", saying a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: "Turkey is willingly risking further destabilising the region and a resurgence of ISIS.

Turkey's operation in Syria.
Turkey's operation in Syria.

"Syria needs stability and a political process. However, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster."

Mr Maas said that Berlin would "urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully".

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the offensive "must stop".

"It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans' security," Mr Le Drian said in a tweet.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin earlier said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration that "will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn" the Turkish campaign.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed "serious concerns about the military action that Turkey has taken".

It "risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh, which should be our collective focus", Mr Raab said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said he had summoned Turkey's ambassador to condemn the assault.

"I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen," Mr Blok, whose country is a member of the coalition against ISIS, 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 ISIS and stability in the region."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was "deeply concerned that any escalation in the country's north-east could harm an already struggling population'.

It said that "the humanitarian space" needed to be preserved.

Updated: October 10, 2019 10:15 AM

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