EU institutions divided on Turkish invasion of Kurdish enclave Afrin
Sunday, 18 March 2018
The Kurdish enclace Afrin fell on Sunday to Turkish-led forces and the Turkish flag was seen flying over Afrin. While the European Parliament has condemned the Turkish invasion of Afrin in northern Syria, other institutions have limited themselves to expressing concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
The conclusions from the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday (19 March) did not mention that Afrin has been taken by Turkish-led forces. At the following press conference, High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed her concerns about the situation in Afrin but was silent about Turkey’s fait accompli on Sunday.
At a press briefing last Friday (16 March), a spokeswoman for the European Commission said that EU had expressed a clear position on Afrin and referred to the declaration the previous day by Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the EU:
“The EU also expresses deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afrin following the Turkish military operation”, Mogherini said and called on all parties, including Turkey, for the immediate and full implementation of UNSC Resolution 2401 demanding a ceasefire without delay.
News from Afrin in the latest days are worrying with a hospital in Afrin bombed and pictures of thousands of fleeing people on the roads. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which contributed to the victory over the Islamic state, have left the city of Afrin in order not to endanger the civil population in the fightings.
EU supports the Syrian umbrella opposition organization, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), which it considers as “more united than before”. Its leader Nasr al Hariri, who is supported by Saudi Arabia, was received by Mogherini in Brussels last month.
According to Kurdish news agency Rudaw Hariri told journalists at a press conference in Saudi capital Riyadh last Saturday that PYD, the Kurdish local party, should leave Afrin.
Defending the Turkish military operation, he said that the “operation in which the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has participated has one goal. It is neither targeting civilians nor destroying facilities. Its goal is forcing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) out of this area.”
Asked by The Brussels Times whether EU considers SNC representative for the entire Syrian opposition to the Assad regime, a spokesperson replied that SNC appears to include many Syrian parties and that EU doesn’t interfere in how it’s organized.
Next opportunity for EU and Turkey to discuss their tense relations on the highest level, including the Turkish military operation in Afrin, will be at a planned summit in Varna, Bulgaria, on 26 March.