Baghdadi death should not mask Turkey’s illegal land grab – rights advocate

The death of Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the weekend may dominate headlines in the coming days, but the killing should not ignore Turkey’s illegal occupation of northern Syria, celebrated by U.S. President Donald Trump, said Rebecca Barber for the Interpreter.

International law dictates that one country cannot decide it needs a so-called “safe zone” in another country and then invade and claim it as theirs by virtue of its seizure, Barber, a human rights advocate for international NGOs, said in an article published on Monday.

“Not only has this flagrant breach of international law gone largely unchallenged by world leaders; worse, it’s been formally endorsed – first by the U.S. in the deal brokered by Vice President Mike Pence in talks with Turkish President Erdoğan on 17 October, and secondly by Russia, in its deal with Turkey last Tuesday.”

Erdoğan sent thousands of troops into northern Syria in early October to combat Kurdish militants allied in the U.S. battle against ISIS. His government aims to resettle more than a million refugees from Syria in the border area in a mass security and construction project that may threaten the local indigenous Kurdish population.

“That the plan has now been formally endorsed by both the U.S. and Russia conveys a message that international law is irrelevant and that Turkey can do whatever it likes,” Barber said.

India could now argue that it needs a safe zone in Pakistan to keep extremists away from the border with Kashmir, or Russia could say that its role in eastern Ukraine is a “safe zone” or peace corridor, Barber said, citing one unidentified commentator. The amount of such entities could become endless, she said.