Turkish incursion compounds human suffering - GulfToday

Turkish incursion compounds human suffering

Turkish forces in Syria

A boy watches as Turkish military vehicles drive towards the Syrian border near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province. AFP

It is disappointing that Turkey has ignored international warnings against its military incursion into Syria and is reporting progress by its forces on the second day of an operation that world powers fear could further destabilise the region.

The UN refugee agency has stated that tens of thousands of civilians in Syria are on the move to escape the fighting and seek safety amid the Turkish offensive into the area.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now said to be in harm’s way. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must never be a target.

As per the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 60,000 have fled their homes in northern Syria since Wednesday.

The situation of those caught in the fighting is worsened by lower temperatures across the region as colder weather is setting in.

After eight years of conflict, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world, with 5.6 million Syrians living as refugees in the region. Over 6.2 million more are displaced inside Syria, according to UN estimates.

The United Arab Emirates has rightly condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish military aggression in Syria.

A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation clearly 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 has also unmistakably 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.

The Arab League, on its part, will convene an emergency meeting on Saturday at the foreign ministerial level to look into the Turkish aggression in Syria.

As per Arab League’s Assistant Secretary General, Hossam Zaki, the meeting comes at the request of Egypt and has been supported by several countries.

He has also termed the Turkish offensive as an unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab nation member of the Arab league in violation of international law and conventions.

US President Donald Trump’s stand on the issue remains ambiguous.  He claims he is talking to “both sides” and has warned Ankara it would be hit hard financially if it did not “play by the rules.”

“I am trying to end the ENDLESS WARS. Talking to both sides,” he said on Twitter. “I say hit Turkey very hard financially & with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules! I am watching closely.”

A big concern of the world community is also that dreaded Daesh should not use the opportunity to regroup.

As French President Emmanuel Macron has pointed out, Turkey’s offensive risks boosting Daesh extremists. In Macron’s own words, “This risks helping Daesh to rebuild its caliphate. This is the responsibility that Turkey is taking.”

UNHCR has rightly stressed the urgency of having unfettered humanitarian access in order to be able to reach those newly displaced and assist them wherever this is required. Humanitarian organisations must be able to continue to carry out their critical work in Syria.

The fact remains that the escalation of conflict in northern Syria risks causing more human suffering and adding new displacement to what is already the largest displacement crisis in the world.