UN envoy urges 'immediate' de-escalation in northern Syria

Turkey's UN ambassador says Ankara will continue to carry out counter-terrorism operations to ensure border security

A fighter in the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army mans a post in rebel-held northern Aleppo province. AFP
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UN Special Envoy Geir Pederson on Tuesday called on Ankara, armed opposition groups and US-backed Kurdish forces to “immediately” de-escalate regional tension, as Turkey's military prepares for a possible ground invasion of northern Syria.

“I am here in person today to tell you that escalatory dynamics are indeed taking place, and this is worrying and dangerous,” Mr Pederson told the UN Security Council in New York.

He warned council members that a large-scale military operation by “one actor” could have a domino effect across “all the theatres”.

For many months, he continued, there has been a slow increase in mutual strikes in northern Syria between the Syrian Democratic Forces on one side, and Turkey and armed opposition groups on the other, with violence spilling over into Turkish territory.

The UN envoy to Syria stressed that the current escalation after three years of relative calm promises to further destabilise the situation within and beyond the country.

Terrorist groups that are subdued but not defeated could take advantage of any “fresh” instability, he added.

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters take part in military exercise — in pictures

“Syria needs less military activity”, not more, he reminded the council.

Turkey's UN ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu said the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK, and the YPG — mostly Kurdish militia groups known as People's Defence Units — are “terrorist” organisations that pose a vital threat to his country's national security.

“No member state can tolerate deliberate attacks against its people or territory, nor should they,” he said.

He added that Turkey will continue to carry out counter-terrorism operations to protect its people and ensure border security in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions on the fight against terrorism.

“You may change the name of this terrorist organisation as many times as you want, but there is no changing its intent … you cannot change the fact that it is a terrorist organisation, with the blood of Turkish-Syrian civilians on its hands,” Mr Sinirlioglu said.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to order a land invasion of northern Syria and attack Kurdish groups following the November 3 explosion in Istanbul that killed six people and wounded dozens.

He has launched a barrage of air strikes on suspected militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq over the past week in retaliation for the bombing, which Ankara blames on Kurdish groups.

Mr Erdogan said the strikes were “just the beginning” and that the Turkish armed forces “will topple the terrorists by land at the most convenient time”.

The groups have denied involvement in the bombing and said the Turkish strikes threatened the fight against ISIS.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 6:24 PM