‘Blatant violation of sovereignty’: Damascus condemns Turkish operation in Jarablus

Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 24, 2016. © Umit Bektas
Damascus denounced Turkey’s joint military operation with the Syrian rebels aimed at re-taking the Syrian border town of Jarablus from Islamic State militants (IS, former ISIS/ISIL). Damascus said it considers Turkish troops’ incursion into Syria a violation of its sovereignty.

Damascus condemned Turkish incursion into the Syrian territory after Turkey’s tanks and Special Forces supported by the Turkish and US aircraft and Syrian rebels launched an offensive on the Syrian northern border town of Jarablus, calling it “a national security issue.”

Syrian government officials said that any side willing to fight terrorism on the Syrian territory should cooperate with the authorities and the Syrian Army, “which has been fighting terrorism for over five years,” as reported by SANA news agency.

Syrian government called the Turkish operation a “blatant violation of the sovereignty” of Syria, adding that “replacing” Islamic State with “other terrorist organizations backed directly by Turkey” cannot be regarded as a fight against terrorism.

“What is happening in Jarablus now isn’t fighting terrorism as Turkey claims - rather it is replacing one type of terrorism with another,” a Syrian government official told SANA and once again called on the UN to “put an end to this aggression” and to make Turkey and the US-led coalition fulfill the UN resolutions related to closing the borders and preventing the terrorists from receiving funding and support from abroad.

The Syrian UN envoy also said Wednesday that the Syrian government did not request any such aid from Turkey and stressed that all foreign forces fighting terrorism in Syria should coordinate their actions with the Syrian Army.

Meanwhile, Russia also expressed its concern over the Turkish actions in Syria. Moscow is “deeply worried” by the developments on the Syrian-Turkish border, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “a possibility of the further deterioration of the situation in the conflict zone” as well as “potential losses among the civilian population and the aggravation of … antagonism between Kurds and Arabs” is a “source of primary concern.”

The ministry also once again stressed that the Syrian crisis could be resolved only through peaceful means, including a broad interethnic dialog that should particularly involve Kurds.

Turkey managed to successfully hit the previously identified IS targets during its operation in the town of Jarablus, Turkish envoy to the UN said in a statement. He also said that the operation was aimed at liberating the Syrian territory bordering Turkey from terrorists and strengthening Turkish border security.

The envoy also stressed that “maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity” was one of the goals of the operation. Turkey said it supported Syrian “moderate” opposition forces during the operation.

Earlier, Syrian rebel groups supported by Turkish tanks and special forces, as well as US airpower, said they had entered Jarablus and now control about 50 percent of the town that had been held by Islamic State since 2013, according to Reuters. Rebel sources told the agency that most IS fighters had fled the town, while some had surrendered.

At the same time, Syrian Kurdish YPG militia condemned the Turkish operation by calling it a “declaration of war.”

A spokesman for the YPG Kurdish militia, Redur Xelil, denounced Turkey’s move as “blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs.” Aldar Xelil, another influential Kurdish politician, accused Turkey of initiating an occupation of Syria, saying the operation amounted to “a declaration of war” on the autonomous administration set up by Kurdish groups in northern Syria in 2011.

In the meantime, the Kurdish Firat news agency (ANFNews) reported that 29 civilians have been killed by the advancing Turkish and allied troops so far.

Turkey launched a ground operation in northern Syria at 4 am local time (02:00 GMT), which involved tanks and Special Forces, after its artillery shelled targets across the Syrian border. The operation, called Euphrates Shield, was also supported by Turkish air forces, as well as A-10S and F-16 warplanes from the US-led coalition.