‘Almost 180,000 people, including close to 80,000 children, have fled south’ from the Syrian-Turkish border since the start of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller while addressing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York City on Thursday.
“The military operation severely impacted the humanitarian situation,” Mueller said.
Alternate Representative of the United States on the Security Council Michael Barkin said that the US is “hopeful, based on assurances from Turkish and Syrian Democratic Forces authorities, that the permanent ceasefire will be honoured, civilian lives will be protected, and the hard-fought territorial defeat of ISIS will be preserved.”
Russian representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia stated that while Russia understands Turkey’s security concerns, “it is important to understand that problems plaguing north-eastern Syria did not emerge yesterday nor today. The root cause for destabilization in the area beyond the Euphrates is the illegal occupation of this area and the perilous demographic engineering experiment that was set out there in an attempt to pit the Kurdish against the Arab population.”
Syrian representative Bashar Jaafari lambasted Turkey for conducting the military operation in his country, and said “the Turkish regime started a new chapter in its aggression against my country, in flagrant violation of international law, the principles of the charter, the resolutions of this council, the outcome documents of the Astana rounds, and the understandings of Sochi.”
In response, Turkey’s Feridun Sinirlioglu maintained that “the operation was conducted in full respect of international and international humanitarian law. It only targeted terrorists and their hideouts, weapons and vehicles. We took all necessary measures to prevent any harm to civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure.”
Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring,’ began on October 9, days after the White House announced the withdrawal of US troops from the area. Turkey agreed to suspend operations for a five-day ceasefire on October 17 to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, following talks in Ankara between Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence.