EU’s Mogherini says ‘extremely worried’ by Turkish offensive in Syria

The European Union’s (EU) diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday that she was “extremely worried” by Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia targets in Syria, saying she would seek urgent talks with Turkish officials.

According to a report by AFP, Mogherini said “I’m extremely worried and will discuss this among other things with our Turkish interlocutors,” after a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers where the issue was raised, adding that she was concerned about the impact on civilians and on the UN-backed Syrian peace process.

Ankara on Monday intensified its offensive to oust the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from their enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowing there would be no stepping back in the campaign launched on Saturday.

Turkey considers the YPG to be a terror group and the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

Mogherini said she was worried “for two main reasons. “One side is the humanitarian one, we need to make sure that humanitarian access is guaranteed and that civilian population and people are not suffering from military activities on the ground,” she said. The second issue, Mogherini said, was that the offensive “can undermine seriously the resumption of talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria.”

Mogherini said she hoped to set up a meeting with Turkey’s European affairs minister Ömer Çelik when he visits Brussels “in the coming days.”

Members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned Turkey’s ongoing military operation in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin. Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou, who is also the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to Turkey, strongly condemned the operation by naming it “Turkish invasion” by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“We stand with all the peacekeeping forces that call for an immediate end to the invasion and the withdrawal of Turkish troops,” Hadjigeorgiou continued. “We express our solidarity with the Syrian people and the Kurds in both Syria and Turkey who are constantly threatened by the Turkish government,” he added.

German MEP Martina Michels also criticized the military operation in Afrin, stressing that “it is unacceptable that the Turkish army has been attacking Kurdish villages.” “(The campaign in Afrin) goes to the heart of Erdoğan’s long-held dream of destroying Kurdish self-determination—not just within Turkey, but in Iraq and Syria as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat called on the international community to “act quickly by taking a stand against these operations and by bolstering our support to the inhabitants of Afrin.”

It was also reported on Monday that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is planning to take Turkish military operation in Afrin on its agenda over the motion given by the Left Group President Teny Kox who called Turkish military move on Afrin “an attempt of invasion.” During a discussion set to be held in the General Assembly on Wednesday, political groups and 47 member countries are expected to manifest their stand over the military operation.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has also telephoned his Turkish colleague Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to relay his “concerns about an escalation” in northern Syria on Monday, as well as the impact on the civilian population, according to a foreign ministry official in Berlin.

The co-chair of Germany’s Left Party, Katja Kipping, released a video statement on Twitter in which, wearing a scarf in the colors of the Kurdish flag, she accused Russia and NATO of betraying the Kurds and making Germany complicit in a “war of aggression.”

She said Russia had opened Syrian airspace for Turkish warplanes and that NATO had approved the move, while, according to the Turkish military, NATO reconnaissance aircraft were coordinating and observing the Turkish operations. “If what the Turkish general staff has announced is true, it means German soldiers are also directly involved in this war of aggression,” Kipping said.

According to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW) on Monday Turkey’s push into Syrian territory also sparked uproar in Germany as photos from the scene purported to show Turkish troops using German-made Leopard 2 tanks. Opposition lawmakers slammed the German government for exporting weapons to Turkey and called for the deliveries to be halted.

German officials refused to provide details on the apparent Leopard deployment. A defense ministry spokesman said that it was not yet clear when the pictures were taken, while foreign ministry officials said the situation remained unclear. A spokesman dealing with weapons exports in the economy ministry was equally tight-lipped. “Except for the images shown in the media, which you all know about, we do not have any information about the use of Leopard tanks,” said the same spokesman.

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