Newsroom / CNA
Turkey was heavily criticized on Wednesday for its military operation in north-east Syria, during a debate at the European Parliament plenary, in Strasbourg, while a relevant resolution is expected to be adopted on Thursday.
Representatives from the European Council and the European Commission insisted that international humanitarian law needs to be respected and civilian protection must be accorded absolute priority. At the same time some political groups asked for more drastic measures against Turkish President Erdogan, even in the form of targeted sanctions.
The Commission warned Ankara that demographic changes in the area are unacceptable, noting that it would not support the relocation of Syrian refugees if this isn’t done under the appropriate circumstances.
The Representative of the Council of the EU Tytti Tuppurainen welcomed the agreement reached between Turkey and Russia, on Tuesday in Sochi, as an effort to break the circle of violence.
Turkey’s concerns should be addressed through diplomatic means, not military action which only destabilizes the region further, she added.
She said moreover that the Syrian crisis will be resolved only through a comprehensive deal, which will be negotiated among Syrians for the Syrians.
Tuppurainen also said that there is no excuse for the 200 civilian casualties, nor for the bombing of water systems, hospitals and even ambulances.
European institutions are united in their response against Turkey’s military action, said European Commissioner Christos Stylianides
We are concerned for the fate of the Kurds in Syria and for all civilians in the region where hostilities take place, she added.
The Representative of the Council said moreover that the EU stood united since the first day of the invasion and all three EU institutions sent identical messages.
European institutions are united in their response against Turkey’s military action, said European Commissioner Christos Stylianides, responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis management.
We cannot remain idle and must use all means in order to stop hostilities and the humanitarian tragedy, he added. He said moreover that he is in favor of providing every assistance in order to bring the situation back to normal and find a political solution, within the UN framework.
The Commissioner also described the dire humanitarian situation, noting that 200 people are dead, while 200 thousand have been displaced. More than 150 thousand people will be forced to relocate, on top of the 100 thousand people living in camps before this crisis, he added.
“There is no excuse for the death of innocent civilians and the destruction of infrastructure” he said and expressed concern for the situation in the hospitals.
The Commissioner also noted that the danger for convoys carrying humanitarian aid needs to be eliminated, while humanitarian workers must not become a target.
Speaking about the return of Syrian refugees, Commissioner Stylianides said that this has to be done in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner and under the right circumstances, otherwise the Commission will not be able to provide the necessary support.
In relation to the “safe zone” Turkey wants to establish in north-east Syria, Stylianides reminded that the 28 member states declared any attempt to bring about demographic changes as unacceptable.
Cypriot MEPs also joined the debate, drawing parallels with the 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus. Lefteris Christofrou from EPP and DISI said the Turkish invasion in Syria is a “heinous crime against the EU, Europe and humanity.” Turkey is repeating itself, as it did with the Armenians in 1915, with Pontic Greeks in 1918, with the Greeks in Smyrna in 1922 and in Istanbul in 1955, with Cyprus in 1974, with Afrin last year and now with the Kurds, he added.
Europe is absent from what is happening in Syria, said Loucas Fourlas, also from EPP and DISI. As was the case in 1974 in Cyprus, the international community remained silent and left Turkey alone to finish its crime, he said, noting that the perpetrator remains unpunished.
Giorgos Georgiou from GUE/NGL and AKEL said that the foreign invasion of Syria started 8 years ago, aiming to dismember the country. The US, NATO, Turkey, EU countries and Gulf monarchies armed jihadists and Daesh through the Syrian opposition and now, with the tolerance of Russia and the US, and with the EU limiting itself to oral condemnations only, Erdogan launched his offensive against the Kurds, he added.
Costas Mavrides from the S&D and DIKO said that the Turkish invasion of Syria has far reaching implications, not just in relation to security, Daesh and the Kurds but also in relation to “concrete crimes against humanity.” He also spoke about “ethnic cleansing” noting that the situation is similar to that in Cyprus.
Demetris Papadakis from the S&D and EDEK noted from his part that it is impossible for the EU to remain hostage to Erdogan’s blackmail. “Turkey is committing ethnic cleansing in the region, by utilizing the space it was granted by the Americans once they left” he noted and said that EU is absent.
Before that, representatives from political groups also took the floor. Michael Gahler from EPP said that the Council should consider targeted sanctions against Turkey and even consider suspending Customs Union as a last resort.
We have asked for targeted sanctions against Turkish officials, restrictive measures as well as a fully-fledged arms embargo, said Kati Piri from the S&D. She also noted that it was important to protect those who fought against Daesh and for Europe’s security.
Malik Azmani from Renew also talked about the possibility of targeted economic sanctions against Turkey while Tineke Strik from the Greens said that foreign fighters should be repatriated, in order to contain the security threat for Europe.
Lars Patrick Berg from the Identity and Democracy Group said that Europe should send a clear message to Turkey while Anna Fotyga from the ECR asked for measures to reduce tension in the region. Özlem Demirel from GUE/NGL said finally that Kurds were abandoned after doing the job for Europe and asked for a peaceful, rather than a military solution for Syria.
A resolution on this matter will be put to the vote on Thursday.