French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency Security Council meeting amid the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria after Turkey launched an assault on the northeastern Syrian city of Afrin to clear the region of Kurdish militia units that Ankara considers major security threats.
“France is preoccupied with the brutal deterioration of the situation in Syria. This is why we have called for a Security Council meeting to evaluate all the humanitarian risks, which are very serious,” said Drian.
The French initiative, however, faced stiff resistance from the Turks. Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Mevlut Çavusoğlu castigated Paris’ decision to call a meeting of the security council and equated the French move with tacit support for a group that Ankara considers to be terrorists
Çavusoğlu capped his scathing criticism by saying France’s decision to publicly speak out against Turkey’s unilateral military incursion into Syria “would affect” the two NATO allies’ bilateral relations.
Turkey’s military operation, dubbed “Olive Branch”, has put the entire region on the brink of another crisis and outraged most of the Middle East.
Egypt, one of the leaders of the Arab world, condemned Turkey’s military operations, calling Operation Olive Branch “a new violation of Syria’s sovereignty”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised that the new offensive with be a swift incursion and his armed forces will re-take Afrin “within a few days”.
The operation, however, risks being bogged down in brutal inner city fighting with well-equipped and battle hardened Syrian Kurdish fighters who are dug-in in the heavily fortified city.
Ankara’s strategic relations with the US, another NATO ally who actively supports and trains the Syrian Kurds, are likely to be severely affected as the battle for Afrin intensifies.
The US State Department urged Turkey to be “scrupulous and avoid civilian casualties” while ensuring that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration.
Russia – another key player in the multi-sided Syrian Civil War and the main backer of Syria’s dictatorial President Bashar al-Assad – has thus far failed to react beyond a limited statement that expressed Moscow’s concern for the uptick in violence.
Russian Defence Ministery offered an awkward statement that accused Washington of exacerbating the situation with it “uncontrolled supply of weapons to pro-American groups in Syria, which resulted in the recent escalation of violence…and led to Turkey’s special military operation.”
The Syrian Kurdish militia – known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG –called Moscow “Turkey’s bloody accomplice in the killing of civilians in the region”.
The YPG are believed to have an estimate 10,000 fighters in and around Afrin. The group’s close affiliation with their ethnic kin across the border in Turkey and the Kurdish pro-independence movement in neighbouring Iraq has put the Syrian Kurds on a collision course with Ankara.
The YPG’s multiple battlefield successes against ISIS in northern Syria and the groups access to US and European weapons has made them into a formidable fighting force that Turkey considers a threat to its national security