EU urges Turkey to refrain from military operation in Syria

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Saturday said the union expects Turkey to refrain from any unilateral action in Syria, where Ankara has threatened a new offensive east of the Euphrates river. 

“The statements of a possible Turkish military operation in northeast Syria are a source of concern,” Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, said in a statement.

Mogherini stressed that Turkey should avoid actions which might weaken the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in the region. 

“We expect the Turkish authorities, therefore, to refrain from any unilateral action likely to undermine the efforts of the Counter-Daesh Coalition or to risk further instability in Syria,” she said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State," the diplomat said. 

The comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara was ready to conduct military operations against Syrian Kurds in northern Syria. Turkish President on Friday talked to his U.S. counterpart Donal Trump by phone concerning the issue, and the two NATO allies decided to strengthen their cooperation in the region, according to pro-government media. 

The White House has not issued any readout or announcement about the call.

The Turkish authorities view the Syrian Kurdish forces, People's Protection Units (YPG), as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group listed as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Ankara has been claiming that the YPG presence near its border hampers its national security. However, YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed coalition in the fight against the IS. 

Turkey and the United States are key NATO allies, but the relations have been strained over many issues including Washington’s support for Syrian Kurds.

Kurdish commander Mazloum Kobani on Dec. 13 said their forces would strongly respond to any attack.