Saudi Arabia leads global condemnation of Turkish offensive in Syria

Civilians flee amid Turkish bombardment on Syria's northeastern town of Ras Al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on Wednesday. — AFP

CAIRO/WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS — Saudi Arabia condemned on Wednesday the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria, state TV cited an official source in the Saudi foreign ministry as saying.

The source expressed the Kingdom's concern over the incursion and described it as a threat to regional security and peace.

The source also stressed the need to ensure the safety of the Syrian people, and Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria on Wednesday just days after US troops pulled back from the area.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also condemned the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria.

“The aggression represents a dangerous development and a blatant and unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state in contravention of the rules of international law, the UAE said in a statement carried by the state news agency WAM.

Meanwhile, Bahrain said it supports the call for an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council to take a unified Arab stand towards the aggression, according to state news agency BNA.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia's regional ally, called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League over Turkey's offensive into Syria, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

"Egypt condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish aggression on Syrian territory," the ministry said in a statement, adding the offensive "represents a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state."

The Egyptian foreign ministry, in its statement, "warned of the repercussions of the Turkish move on the unity and territorial integrity of Syria".

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday described Turkey's incursion as a "bad idea."

Trump insisted that Washington "does not endorse this attack."

The president said in a statement that Turkey had committed to "ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment."

"In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS (Daesh) fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape or form," Trump said in a statement.

"We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely," he added.

Taking a dig at the Turkish action, the European Union on Wednesday told Ankara that EU would not pay for any so-called "safe zone" that might be created.

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker spoke as Turkish forces launched an assault on Kurdish positions, with air strikes and explosions reported near the border.

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

"I call on Turkey as well as the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already, as we are speaking, under way," Juncker said.

"I have to say if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don't expect the European Union to pay for any of it."

The EU's top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, issued a statement echoing Juncker's declaration and warning that "unilateral action on Turkey's part threatens" concerted action by the West and Turkey and other countries to defeat Daesh (the so-called IS).

Turkish military action, she said, risked "protracted instability in northeast Syria, providing fertile ground for the resurgence of Daesh".

Keeping captured Daesh fighters in Syria secure is "imperative in order to prevent them from joining the ranks of terrorist groups," she added.

Like Juncker, Mogherini warned that any supposed "safe zone" Turkey created would be unlikely to meet the criteria needed for Syrian refugees to be placed there in "safe, voluntary and dignified" conditions.

Any attempt at demographic change would be unacceptable. The EU will not provide stabilization or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored," she said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg issued his own statement urging "restraint" and pointing out the risk of worsening instability in Syria, though he did acknowledge Turkey had "legitimate security concerns" in the area. — Agencies