EU worried about Turkish offensive against Kurdish enclave but waits for Turkish minister
Wednesday, 24 January 2018
The Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday ended without any reference to the Turkish military offensive against the Kurdish enclave around Afrin along the Syrian-Turkish border region. The issue was not a point on the agenda which had been determined before the offensive started last weekend. The council meeting focused on among others the situation in Libya and the Middle East peace process and included a working lunch with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Outside the building a demonstration against the Turkish incursion took place.
Asked by a journalist at the following press conference, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed that the issue has been discussed with the foreign ministers of the EU member states at the opening of the meeting.
“I am extremely worried,” she said but fell short of denouncing the Turkish invasion.
She explained that she was worried for two main reasons. From a humanitarian point of view access must be guaranteed to ensure that civilians are not suffering from military activities on the ground. The military activity must also be focused against the Islamic State (Da’esh).
She added that the Turkish offensive might also undermine the resumption of planned peace talks and a political transition. The Syrian leader Assad has condemned the invasion as a violation of Syrian territory and threatened to shoot down Turkish aircraft.
The target of the Turkish offensive is not Da’esh or terrorist groups aligned with them which still are holding territory south of Afrin but the Kurdish so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG). The explicit goal of the Turkish government is to neutralize those units because of its alleged ties with the outlawed PKK in Turkey.
During Assad’s rule, Kurdish inhabitants in Syria did not enjoy citizen rights. YPG has been holding the Afrin enclave since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the area in 2012 and played a crucial role in the fight against Da’esh. The Afrin area has also received refugees from other parts of Syria.
According to estimates on Tuesday by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 106 persons have been killed in the Afrin area since the start of Turkey’s military offensive, among them 23 civilians.
Mogherini said at the press conference that she plans to meet Ömer Çelik, Minister of European Union Affairs of Turkey, during his coming visit in Brussels. It has been confirmed that the meeting will take place on Thursday.
In the meantime some of the political groups in the European parliament have protested against the Turkish military offensive. S&D group (Socialists & Democrats) vice-president Victor Boştinaru echoed Mogherini’s concerns but also stressed that YPG has been a key part of the battle against Daesh in Syria.
“Achieving a sustainable peace in Syria is in Turkey’s own interest,” he said.
Members of the GUE/NGL group (European United Left – Nordic Green Left) condemned Turkey’s unprovoked strike at the Kurdish YPG at a time when the region is still reeling from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. M.Apelblat The Brussels Times