The UN Security Council discussed Turkey’s intensifying offensive against Kurdish militias and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria on Monday but did not condemn or demand an end to the sensitive Turkish operation.
Already scheduled to hear a report from UN aid chief Mark Lowcock on his recent visit to Syria, at France’s request the Security Council also touched on the latest Turkish offensive as well as the Syrian campaign in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed no stepping back to the air and ground offensive seeking to flush out the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia from its enclave of Afrin, despite concern from Ankara’s allies and neighbors.
“It was of course part of the conversation,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre said of Afrin after the closed-door talks at UN headquarters in New York.
“The call for restraint, I believe, was widely shared during the discussion,” he added, saying that France was “attentive to the security of Turkey, its territories and its borders.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley did not attend the meeting in person, a diplomatic source said.
Turkey’s operation “Olive Branch” is sensitive as Washington relied on the YPG to oust militants from the ISIS militant group from their Syrian strongholds and the Kurdish militia now holds much of Syria’s north.
Western capitals fear the campaign against the YPG could shift the focus away from eliminating ISIS after a string of successes in recent months.
“It’s vital to keep the unity of the allies in what remains the number one priority, which is the fight against terrorism and against Daesh in particular,” Delattre stressed, using another term for the ISIS militant group.
“The number one party responsible for the humanitarian tragedy in Syria is the Syrian regime,” he added.
“The number one tragedy happening before our eyes happens in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.”
“If things continue this way, Eastern Ghouta might be the new Aleppo in terms of humanitarian disaster,” Delattre added.
Turkey considers the YPG a terror group and the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
Russia and the United States have expressed concern about the operation, which Erdogan said Turkey had discussed in advance with Russia and Moscow was in “agreement.”