Arab foreign ministers have denounced the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, calling on Ankara to stop its aggression against Syrian territories.
Following an emergency meeting at the Arab League in Egyptian capital Cairo on Saturday, the foreign ministers underscored the dangers inherent in the Turkish invasion of this part of Syria. They expressed fears from the toll Turkey’s so-called “Operation Peace Spring” will have on Arab national security.
“The Arab League denounces the ongoing Turkish aggression on Syria,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit said. “Turkey wants to make major demographic changes in the areas it is attacking now.”
The emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of the member states of the pan-Arab organization came at the request of the Egyptian government. The meeting came almost three days after the launch of the Turkish operation in northeastern Syria.
The operation has so far caused the displacement of close to quarter a million Kurds and the killing of 45 Kurdish troops. There is growing concern in Arab states over the effect the Turkish operation will have on the territorial integrity of Syria, which was thrown out of the Arab League in 2011 because of the violent repression of peaceful protests of Syrian citizens by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Arab states are also afraid that the same operation will cause a revival of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the possible escape of thousands of ISIS terrorists from Kurdish prisons and camps. Abu Gheit said Syria’s security is inseparable from the security of other Arab states. He called on Turkey to stop its operation, pull its troops out of Syria, and bear responsibility for its latest aggression on this Arab country.
“We reject the Turkish use of the refugees as a card for blackmailing the world,” Abul Gheit said. “The Turkish aggression only aims at taking a slice of Syrian territories.”
He called for immediate intervention from the United Nations Security Council and international condemnation of the Turkish operation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan countered European criticism of his country’s operation in northeastern Syria by saying that Turkey can open its borders to allow millions of Syrian refugees cross into Europe and flood the continent.
Erdogan used the same card to get billions of dollars in financial assistance from European states. Here in this part of the world, this is viewed as mere ‘Turkish blackmail’.
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan condemned the Turkish invasion and called for its immediate suspension.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Turkey is mounting its aggressions against an Arab League member state, using the tough conditions it is passing through.
He described Turkish claims that the ongoing operation aims at ‘fighting terrorism’ in northern Syria as ‘strange’ and ‘ridiculous’.
“These claims overlook the huge support Turkey has been offering terrorist groups,” Shoukry said.
“Apart from offering direct support to entities and people who proved to be linked to terrorism, Turkey played a role in easing the move of terrorists into Arab states.”
Arab states, especially Egypt, have been critical of the role Turkey played in easing the entry of tens of thousands of jihadists into Syria.
Those joining ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria have had to travel first to Turkey where they found it easy to cross into Syria. ISIS terrorists were also reportedly given initial training in Turkey before they moved into Syria.
The final communiqué of the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting called for ending the Turkish invasion of northern Syria and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from this Arab state.
Objecting to the communiqué were Qatar and Somalia, two Arab states that have Islamist-leaning governments and have close relations with Ankara.
Nevertheless, the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers is important in that it signals the beginning of possible Arab action against Turkey.
Abul Gheit said during the meeting that Arab countries would ponder further measures against Turkey, amid expectations that the measures can include an economic and tourist boycott and a downgrading of diplomatic representation.