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Arab League Calls for Emergency Meeting over Turkey’s Syria Offensive as Criticism Mounts

Arab League Calls for Emergency Meeting over Turkey’s Syria Offensive as Criticism Mounts

Wednesday, 9 October, 2019 - 18:00
Shortly after Turkey’s offensive started, locals cheer as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles drives through the town of Akcakale at the border between Turkey and Syria, October 9, 2019. (AP)

Egypt called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League over Turkey’s offensive into Syria, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“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.”

Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria on Wednesday just days after US troops pulled back from the area.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the aim was to eliminate what he called a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, but European countries called on Ankara to halt the operation.

Turkey had been poised to enter northeast Syria since US troops, who have been fighting with Kurdish-led forces against ISIS, started to leave in an abrupt policy shift by US President Donald Trump.

The Egyptian foreign ministry, in its statement, “warned of the repercussions of the Turkish move on the unity and territorial integrity of Syria”.

Germany slammed the offensive, calling on Ankara to end military action, saying it threatened "a further humanitarian catastrophe and further displacement of persons."

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that "we condemn the Turkish offensive in the northeast of Syria in the strongest possible terms. "

He said Turkey was running the risk that it would "further destabilize the region and strengthen ISIS.”

France's European affairs minister Amelie de Montchalin said France and Britain would call a UN Security Council meeting over the Turkish offensive.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey not to "further destabilize the region" through its offensive.

Stoltenberg told a news conference in Rome that Turkey, a NATO ally, "has legitimate security concerns," having suffered "horrendous terrorist attacks" and hosting thousands of refugees.

He said Turkey should act with "restraint" and any action should be "proportionate."

Stoltenberg will discuss the military action with Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey to halt its military operation, warning that the EU will not be paying to help Ankara set up any safe zone there.

Speaking to EU lawmakers, he said: "I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already, as we are speaking, underway."

While acknowledging that Turkey has security concerns on its border with Syria, Juncker said that "if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don't expect the European Union to pay for any of it."

The EU is paying Turkey 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) to help the country cope with almost 4 million Syrian refugees on its territory in exchange for stopping migrants leaving for Europe. But Ankara is seeking more money amid concerns that thousands of Syrians could soon cross its border.

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