Turkey should halt its Syria offensive

A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter fires during clashes in the border town of Ras Al Ain on October 13, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria.

Arab states must apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Ankara.

The Arab League’s call on Saturday to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Turkey to confront its aggression in Syria is a firm show of unity. Now more than ever, the territorial integrity of Arab states is under threat, whether it comes from Turkey’s invasion of Syria or Iran’s proxy groups in Arab states fomenting division and spreading chaos. The emergency gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo certainly underscores the indignation at Turkey’s encroachment in Syria.

Arab states were near unanimous in its condemnation of the incursion, calling it an “invasion of Arab land”. The League said Ankara’s offensive was a “direct threat to Arab national security”, adding they would consider “urgent measures to confront the Turkish aggression”. Potential responses included diplomatic and economic actions, as well as “military cooperation to confront the Turkish aggression”, a statement said.

The foreign ministers of Iraq and Lebanon also called for Syria’s Arab League membership to be unfrozen. Damascus has been suspended from the pan-Arab bloc since 2011 over its bloody crackdown on protesters.

Not only should they [Arab states] speak with one voice against this blatant aggression, they should also implement the measures suggested at the [Arab] League meeting.

It is important that Arab states follow through on their statement. Not only should they speak with one voice against this blatant aggression, they should also implement the measures suggested at the League meeting. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq under Saddam Hussain in 1990 is fresh in the memories of Gulf states who fear a repeat of that scenario by powerful regional actors. Any incursion into any sovereign territory, whether it comes from Turks, Iranians or other Arab states, should be unequivocally condemned and international pressure must be applied to deter other states from following suit.

The Turkish advance has irked not only the Arab world, but also the international community. Several countries have condemned the Turkish action and accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of invading another country and trying to blackmail by threatening to unleash a wave of Syrian refugees into Europe.

Measures against Turkey are now being discussed in the US and the EU. As EU leaders consider imposing an arms embargo, France and Germany announced that they have stopped shipments of military equipment to Ankara. Some observers have indicated that Ankara had received the green light from the Trump administration for its incursion. But US lawmakers are working on legislation to impose economic sanctions. The sanctions, if approved, will send a stern message to Turkey. And punitive measures will put pressure on Turkey to halt its offensive in Syria’s north.

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