The European Union (EU) warned on Tuesday that Turkish military offensive against the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in the northern Syria could derail a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
“Opening new fronts (in Syria) is not a solution and I am afraid this will not make Turkey more secure. Real security can only be achieved through a negotiated political solution. We are of the opinion that military operations should focus on the fight against the terrorist organizations listed by the United Nations,” said Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“The Afrin offensive could have political consequences on the internal balances inside the future Syria at large and on the potential of political negotiations because the new escalation of violence can push away the chances for a political solution to the conflict,” said Mogherini.
“We need to concentrate all of us in supporting the UN-lead negotiations in Geneva. The war in Syria is not over yet,” said Mogherini during a speech in the debate on current human rights situation in Turkey and the situation in Afrin at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“We are deeply worried about the new front opened in Syria. We are worried first of all for humanitarian reasons. The people of Syria cannot afford a new front and a new crisis,” she said. Mogherini has also stressed that dialogue with Turkey today “is more important than ever,” and noted that “Turkey is facing enormous challenges.”
Turkish government has expressed disappointment because it did not received the support it had been seeking from its Western partners. “I should openly express that we have not received the approach we were expecting,” EU Minister Ömer Çelik told reporters on Wednesday.
“Turkey of course is fighting terrorist organizations on the UN list. But should we give up fighting against the YPG, who carries out attacks on our borders, because it is designated as a terrorist band?” said Çelik, condemning Mogherini’s statement that military operations should focus on UN-listed terrorist organisations. “The YPG is equal to the PKK. It is a terrorist organization,” he said.
Turkish warplanes began striking Afrin on Jan. 20, as dozens of civilians, including children and women, were reported to have been killed by air raids and shelling.
The campaign dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is meant to clear Syria’s Kurdish-held northwest district of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who Turkey claims are an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara has labeled the US-backed Kurdish forces a “terrorist organization” and has been infuriated by Washington’s support for the YPG.
The US, which is backing the Kurds in the ongoing battle against ISIL in Syria, said it was concerned and has called on Turkey to limit its military offensive in the Kurdish region.