World calls for restraint, warns of resurgent IS as Turkey begins Syria assault
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World calls for restraint, warns of resurgent IS as Turkey begins Syria assault

Concern of regional destabilization mounts after Ankara launches ground offensive on Kurdish forces following US troop withdrawal from area

Civilians flee amid Turkish bombardment on Syria's northeastern town of Ras al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on October 9, 2019 (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)
Civilians flee amid Turkish bombardment on Syria's northeastern town of Ras al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on October 9, 2019 (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

PARIS, France — World governments reacted with concern Wednesday after Turkey launched a military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, while the UN Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the assault.

Here are some of the initial comments following the start of the attack, called “Operation Peace Spring.”

‘Act with restraint’

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to show “restraint,” while acknowledging that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns.”

“It’s important to avoid actions that may further destabilize the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome, in remarks released by his office.

The UN Security Council’s president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint.”

‘Bad idea’

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the incursion into northern Syria a “bad idea.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event on “transparency in Federal guidance and enforcement” in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Oct. 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He insisted Washington “does not endorse this attack,” despite having withdrawn US troops from the area in what was interpreted as a green light for Turkey to assault Kurdish militias previously allied with America.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.

The US and the UK also expressed concern over the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

‘Think carefully’

Ahead of the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “think carefully” before taking any action “so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis,” the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.

Erdogan for his part told Putin that the offensive “will contribute to Syria’s peace and stability and ease the path to a political solution.”

No funding for ‘safe zone’

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker demanded a halt to the operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called “safe zone” that might be created.

He told the European Parliament he recognized Turkey had “security concerns” along the border. But he warned that the military action would not lead to a “good result,” saying a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.

Smoke billows following Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northeastern town of Ras al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on October 9, 2019 (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

‘Risk of resurgent IS’

Turkey “is willingly risking further destabilizing the region and a resurgence of IS” (Islamic State) by attacking northeastern Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“Syria needs stability and a political process… however, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster,” Maas said in a statement, adding that Berlin would “urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully.”

‘Must stop’

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the offensive “must stop.”

“It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans’ security,” he said in a tweet, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin earlier said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration “which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn” the Turkish campaign.

Civilians flee with their belongings amid Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northeastern town of Ras al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on October 9, 2019 (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

‘Risks destabilizing the region’

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed “serious concerns about the unilateral military action that Turkey has taken.”

The action “risks destabilizing the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus,” he added in a statement.

Ambassador summoned

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said he had summoned Turkey’s ambassador to condemn the assault.

Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, local residents cheer and applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Oct. 9, 2019 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

“I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen,” Blok, whose country is a member of the coalition against the Islamic State, said on Twitter.

“No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS and stability in the region.”

Already struggling population

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “deeply concerned that any escalation in the country’s north-east could harm an already struggling population,” stressing that “the humanitarian space” needs to be preserved.

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