A de-escalation of renewed conflict in northern Syria is “absolutely essential,” the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday. His comments follow the launch of airstrikes and a ground offensive by Turkey on Wednesday just days after the United States announced it would pull its troops out of Syria.
Speaking to journalists in Copenhagen, the UN chief said that he did not “believe in military solutions for the Syrian problem, also for any other problem in the world. I always strongly believe in political solutions.”
He also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation and civilian displacement.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR said earlier that tens of thousands of civilians were on the move to escape the fighting.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council in New York held closed-door consultations on the developments after which US Ambassador Kelly Craft told reporters that her country had not endorsed Turkey’s decision to mount the military incursion.
She said Turkey also bears “full responsibility for protecting the Kurdish population and religious minorities, including Christians”, and also was responsible for ensuring that the ISIL terrorist group, “does not reconstitute itself in any way, shape or form.”
Kurdish-led militia in northern Syria fighting for the Kurdish-Arab coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, was a key ally to the United States in the fight against ISIL there, but Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters as terrorists.
EU countries call for end to ‘unilateral military action’
European Union countries on the Council expressed their deep concern in a statement calling on Turkey to “cease the unilateral military action”, which they believe will not address the country’s underlying security concerns.
“Renewed armed hostilities in the northeast will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements which will further increase the number of refugees and IDPs in Syria and in the region,” said German Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, reading from the statement, outside the Council chamber.
Russia further called for all sides in the conflict to exercise restraint and urged direct dialogue between Turkey and Syria.
Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia characterized the military operation as resulting from the “demographic engineering that some of the coalition partners did in the northeast of Syria.”