Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit this week became embroiled in a heated exchange regarding Turkey’s operations in Syria.
Cavusoglu on Sunday told a panel at the Munich Security Conference that Ankara is using its “legitimate right of self-defense” in its intervention against Kurdish militia groups in northwestern Syria.
Aboul-Gheit had earlier decried the presence of so many foreign forces in the country, including Turkey.
“I see an ugly, ugly confrontation in Syria, and I see great powers competing amongst themselves and the regional powers intervening in Syrian affairs that [will] for sure lead to an unsettlement in Syria. There will not be a settlement in Syria. You know why? Because the Russians are on the coast, the Americans are inside Syria, the Iranians are all over the place,” Aboul-Gheit said, in comments cited by Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
“And I have to admit I have been always trying to understand the Turkish behavior. However, I appeal to my Turkish colleague and brother and friend [Cavusoglu], also take care [in the way] that you are intervening in an Arab country south of your borders. So lay down certain principals prior to the way you are acting.”
Cavusoglu responded to the appeal for restraint from Aboul-Gheit:
“Mr. Secretary-General, we are there to defeat a terrorist organization, and we are using our legitimate right of self-defense — this is a right emanating from international law, UN Security Council resolutions, as well as Article 51 of the UN Charter. This is for sure.
“You are talking about your system. I hope your system is strong enough to prevent the leader of one of your member states from killing at minimum half a million people and use of chemical weapons — first,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Arab League’s response to the Syrian conflict and President Bashar al-Assad.
“I hope your system dares to remind other countries in Syria not to stay. As far as I know only Iran and Russia are invited, but the others are also there as a coalition to defeat Daesh [ISIS]. [So] is your problem with Daesh or the YPG?,” he added.
In response, Aboul-Gheit’s spokesman, Mahmoud Afifi, has expressed his surprise at Cavusoglu’s remarks, saying that the Arab League chief had “criticized Turkish intervention, as well as all regional and international interventions in Syria, which have come at the expense of the Syrian people.”
Afifi said Cavusoglu’s remarks “painted Aboul-Gheit’s call for restraint as an unjustified reaction.”
He said that through Cavusoglu’s remarks, the minister effectively criticized the Secretary-General's proposal on the need for an Arab solution to the crisis that must not legitimize international intervention.