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EU, Germany condemn Turkish offensive in northern Syria


Germany and the European Union are among many voices speaking out against the Turkey's military invasion of northern Syria on Wednesday. World powers are deliberating how to respond.

Condemnations poured in on Wednesday after Turkish troops began their military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Countries and global organizations are now considering concrete countermeasures, including the possibility of sanctions on Turkey until forces are withdrawn.

Europe reacts

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey to immediately cease the operation and urged restraint from all sides. He cautioned that the European Union would not fund a "safe zone" inside Syria. 

"If the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don't expect the European Union to pay for any of it," Juncker told EU lawmakers in Brussels. 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned the  offensive "in the strongest possible terms," and called on Ankara to end the operation and pursue its security interests peacefully. 

"Turkey is condoning the further destabilization of the region while risking a resurgence of IS," Maas said in Berlin. Maas added Turkey's actions could lead to a humanitarian crisis in the region and create a new wave of refugees. 

Read more: Germany caught between Turks and Kurds in Syria

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the attack on Twitter, while his British counterpart Dominic Raab expressed "serious concerns” about the offensive.

Turkey's 'legitimate concerns'

The UN Security Council announced that it will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the offensive at the request of France, Germany and Britain. Security Council President Jerry Matthews Matjila called for Turkey to "protect civilians.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recognized Turkey's "legitimate security concerns," but urged the country to show "restraint."

Read more: Explained: Why Turkey wants a military assault on Syrian Kurds

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq, condemned the Turkish violation of Syria's sovereignty.  The Arab League plans to meet on Saturday to discuss the military offensive.


A common enemy 

In the US, the development has ushered in a rare moment of bipartisan political support, with both Republican and Democratic senators cooperating on a bill that would freeze all assets belonging to Turkey's leaders and immediately block US arms sales to the country. The bill, if passed, could also potentially include penalties for other countries that sell weapons to Turkey.

Many politicians have criticized US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from the region in the lead-up to the invasion as a move that aids US adversaries like Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, told the Turkish president in a phone call on Wednesday to "think carefully" about the plan of action "so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis."

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
War with no end

Syria has been engulfed in a devastating civil war since 2011 after Syrian President Bashar Assad lost control over large parts of the country to multiple revolutionary groups. The conflict has since drawn in foreign powers and brought misery and death to Syrians.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The dictator

Syria's army, officially known as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is fighting to restore the president's rule over the entire country. The SAA has been fighting alongside a number of pro-Assad militias such as the National Defense Force and has cooperated with military advisors from Russia and Iran, which back Assad.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The northern watchman

Turkey, which is also part of the US-led coalition against IS, has actively supported rebels opposed to Assad. It has a tense relationship with its American allies over US cooperation with Kurdish fighters, who Ankara says are linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighting in Turkey. Turkey has launched multiple military offensives targeting Kurdish militias.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The eastern guardian

The Kremlin has proven to be a powerful friend to Assad. Russian air power and ground troops officially joined the fight in September 2015 after years of supplying the Syrian army. Moscow has come under fire from the international community for the high number of civilian casualties during its airstrikes. However, Russia's intervention turned the tide in war in favor of Assad.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The western allies

A US-led coalition of more than 50 countries, including Germany, began targeting IS and other terrorist targets with airstrikes in late 2014. The anti-IS coalition has dealt major setbacks to the militant group. The US has more than a thousand special forces in the country backing the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The rebels

The Free Syrian Army grew out of protests against the Assad regime that eventually turned violent. Along with other non-jihadist rebel groups, it seeks the ouster of President Assad and democratic elections. After suffering a number of defeats, many of its members defected to hardline militant groups. It garnered some support from the US and Turkey, but its strength has been greatly diminished.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The resistance

Fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamists has become its own conflict. The US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias. The Kurdish YPG militia is the main component of the SDF. The Kurds have had a tacit understanding with Assad.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The new jihadists

"Islamic State" (IS) took advantage of regional chaos to capture vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Seeking to establish its own "caliphate," IS has become infamous for its fundamentalist brand of Islam and its mass atrocities. IS is on the brink of defeat after the US and Russia led separate military campaigns against the militant group.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The old jihadists

IS is not the only terrorist group that has ravaged Syria. A number of jihadist militant groups are fighting in the conflict, warring against various rebel factions and the Assad regime. One of the main jihadist factions is Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, which controls most of Idlib province and has ties with al-Qaeda.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?
The Persian shadow

Iran has supported Syria, its only Arab ally, for decades. Eager to maintain its ally, Tehran has provided Damascus with strategic assistance, military training and ground troops when the conflict emerged in 2011. The Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah also supports the Assad regime, fighting alongside Iranian forces and paramilitary groups in the country.

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kp/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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