Britain, France and Germany have called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to address Turkey’s military offensive on northern Syria.
French Minister of European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin told parliamentarians the three counties were to deliver a joint statement calling for the meeting and strongly condemning the Turkish manoeuvre shortly after the operation was launched on Wednesday.
While the Kurdish forces had been a crucial Western ally in the fight against ISIS, Ankara views the paramilitary groups as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), against which Turkey has been waging a years’ long ground war in its own country.
Julien Barnes-Dacey, the director of the Middle East & North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The National European nations should have been more prepared for the US move, which had been clearly signposted.
“Europeans have been caught cold here. I don't think they can really be surprised at what happened and I do think they need to assume a bit more responsibility for how this now plays out if they do want to address some of their core interests,” he said.
As Turkish troops amassed at the Syrian border ahead of the assault, officials from Britain, France and other European capitals spoke out against the offensive and is potential to engulf the area in chaos.
“We have been consistently clear with Turkey that unilateral military action must be avoided as it would destabilise the region and threaten efforts to secure the lasting defeat of Daesh," British foreign office minister Andrew Murrison told UK parliament using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIS.
France, which like Britain has operated Special Forces inside Syria since 2016, also condemned the Turkish offensive.
“We call on Turkey to avoid any initiative that would run counter to the interests of the Global Coalition against Daesh, of which it is a member,” the French foreign ministry at the Quai d’Orsay said in a statement.
The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini has warned of the damage the offensive could do to the prospects for peace in Syria.
“Military action in northeast of Syria would exacerbate civilian suffering [and] undermine current work of the Global Coalition against Daesh,” she wrote in a tweet.
The withdrawal of US troops and the potential for the Turkish offensive to plunge northern Syria another cycle of violence has raised questions over the 18,000 ISIS fighters and 70,000 refugees in the country.
As the US announced its withdrawal, the White House criticised European nations for their failure to take back their ISIS fighters and said Turkey would now be responsible for the former combatants.
“I think at the moment there is a strong European preference to not have to take these detainees back,” Mr Barnes-Dacey explained. “The problem is that has become hugely problematic and ultimately quite possibly counterproductive if that creates the conditions in which some of these detainees find the space to escape,” he added.