The U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a statement on Turkey’s counterterrorism operation in Syria at a closed meeting to discuss the action Thursday.
The U.S. and Russia vetoed a statement by five European membersFrance, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Poland condemning the operation.
The five European council members who called Thursday’s meeting — there are 15 member countries — urged Turkey in a joint statement afterward “to cease the unilateral military action.” They claimed the operation threatens progress against the Daesh terrorist group, despite one aim of the operation being to clear any remaining Daesh terrorists from the region.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country is a key ally of Syria’s Bashar Assad, told reporters that any council statement on Syria must address broader issues, including the presence of foreign forces in the country.
U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft told reporters that President Donald Trump “has made abundantly clear” that the United States “has not in any way” endorsed Turkey’s decision to mount a military incursion in northeast Syria.
She told reporters the president has emphasized to Turkey’s government that it bears “full responsibility” for protecting Kurds and religious minorities, and for ensuring that Daesh terrorists remain in prison and the terrorist group doesn’t reconstitute itself.
Craft stressed that Turkey’s “failure to do so will have consequences.” She didn’t elaborate.
Later on Thursday, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held phone calls with his French counterpart Florence Parly, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State for Defense of the United Kingdom Ben Wallace.
According to a press release by the Turkish National Defense Ministry, Akar told Parly in a phone call that the goal of the operation was to eliminate existing terrorist groups in the region, especially Daesh and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates River to establish a peace corridor to ensure Syrians living in Turkey can return to their homeland.
Akar told Parly that Turkey is “the only NATO and coalition member country that is giving a chest-to-chest fight with Daesh, and neutralized more than 3,000 Daesh terrorists,” the statement said.
Akar also informed his counterpart about Turkey’s sensitivity on targeting only terrorists, their shelters, positions, weapons, tools and equipment during the execution of the operation.
“We attach great importance not only to the security of our country and nation, but also to the security of religious and ethnic groups living in the region,” he said.
The utmost attention and sensitivity are being shown to prevent damage to civilians and innocent people as well as historical, cultural and religious structures, infrastructure facilities and elements of friendly and allied countries in the region, Akar added.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring, the third in a series of cross-border anti-terror operations in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the PKK’s Syrian offshoot the YPG, on Oct. 9 at 4 p.m.
The operation, conducted in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, aims to establish a terror-free safe zone for Syrians return in the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by YPG terrorists. The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK terror group’s Syrian affiliate.
The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for nearly 400,000 Syrians who fled the violence to return home.