The members of United Nations Security Council discussed Turkey’s ongoing offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish militants as well as the deteriorating humanitarian situation in western Syria.
The meeting was a planned one as U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock was scheduled to brief the representatives of member countries after his last visit to Syria to assess the humanitarian tragedy after the Syrian regime’s intensifying attacks in Idlib and Ghouta.
France pushed to add Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish enclave of Afrin to the agenda as well. It elicited a swift rebuke from the Turkish foreign minister who accused France of “siding with terrorists.”
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 U.N. 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 Islamic State (ISIS) extremist 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 IS 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 Daesh in particular,” Mr. 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 is happening before our eyes in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.”
“If things continue this way, Eastern Ghouta might be the new Aleppo in terms of humanitarian disaster,” Mr. 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 Mr. Erdogan said Turkey had discussed in advance with Russia and Moscow was in “agreement.”