Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Ras A Ain on Wednesday. Reuters
The United Arab Emirates has condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish military aggression in Syria.
A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation noted that this aggression represents a serious development and an unacceptable, flagrant assault on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state in defiance of international law and blatant interference in Arab affairs.
The statement affirmed the UAE’s firm stance and rejection of acts affecting the sovereignty of Arab states and their national security and threatening international peace and security, warning of the consequences of this aggression against the unity and territorial integrity of Syria, in addition to the political process in that country.
Turkey launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, with intensive bombardment paving the way for an invasion made possible by the withdrawal of US troops.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the attack on Twitter and soon after jets and artillery targeted Kurdish positions along the full width of the border, sending thousands of civilians fleeing their homes.
The move had seemed inevitable since US President Donald Trump on Sunday announced a military pullback from the border, but the attack triggered international condemnation and an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council set for Thursday.
The White House said the Turkish assault was a “bad idea” after it had effectively gifted Erdogan a green light and smashed the US alliance with the Kurdish forces, who spearheaded five years of ground battles against Daesh group in Syria.
The European Union (EU) urged Turkey to end its military operation in northern Syria, rejecting any Turkish plans for a safe zone for refugees, saying it would not provide aid there.Turkey, US begin safe zone joint patrols in north Syria
“The EU calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action,” the 28 members of the bloc said in a joint statement. “It is unlikely that a so-called ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return,” the statement said.
“The EU will not provide stabilisation or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored,” it said.
Egypt called for an emergency meeting of the League of Arab States over Turkey’s offensive into Syria, the foreign ministry said.
“Egypt condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish aggression on Syrian territory,” the ministry said in a statement, adding the offensive “represents a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state.”
The Netherlands summoned Turkey’s ambassador to condemn Ankara assault on Kurdish forces, warning that it risked a resurgence of Daesh group.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, whose country is part of an international coalition against Daesh, said there could also be “terrible humanitarian consequences” from the Turkish offensive.
An AFP correspondent reported Turkish artillery fire in the Ras Al Ain border area and explosions as warplanes flew overhead.
As plumes of smoke billowed into the sky, families could be seen filing out of town, some walking and others piling into vehicles with their belongings.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up mostly of the main Kurdish militia in the region, reported that at least two civilians were killed in air strikes.
SDF fighters armed with rocket launchers were seen deploying in the area, as Kurdish authorities called up civilians to defend against the assault.
Kurdish sources reported that at least 16 positions were struck in the first hours of the operation, to which the SDF responded with some cross-border artillery fire.
While the Turkish military and its Syrian proxies — Arab-dominated former Syrian rebels — had not yet crossed into Syria, an AFP photographer saw forces massing near the border.
The SDF called on the international community to impose a no-fly zone to protect against “an imminent humanitarian crisis.”
Erdogan, who dubbed the attack “Operation Peace Spring,” says the offensive is necessary to curb the power of the SDF due to its ties with Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.
He also wants a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border where Turkey could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees it hosts from the eight-year civil war.
Trump insists the United States did not abandon its Kurdish allies, but he vowed to pull his troops out of Syria last year and analysts now predict that the days of the US presence in Syria are numbered.
In the face of the onslaught, Kurdish authorities announced a general mobilisation, urging all civilians to “head to the border with Turkey... to resist during this delicate historical moment.”
A Turkish military convoy crossed into extremist-run northwest Syria on Monday, its path blocked by advancing regime troops as tensions soared between Damascus and Ankara.
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