Germany calls Turkish ‘invasion’ of Syria illegitimate, threatens sanctions

October 21, 2019 by Ben Marquis

There has been widespread international outrage and condemnation of Turkey’s military incursion into northeastern Syria to push back Kurdish military units from the shared border, and now, a top official in Germany is using carefully chosen words to make it abundantly clear that what is happening is wholly unacceptable.

Germany’s foreign minister said that what Turkey has done constitutes an “invasion” of Syria that is illegitimate and indefensible under international law, and warned that Turkey would face significant consequences if it persisted in the military actions, German media outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.

An illegitimate invasion

“After everything we know and after everything that Turkey itself has cited as a legal basis, we cannot share that view,” German Foreign Minister Keiko Maas declared in a public broadcast on Sunday, according to DW.

“We do not believe that an attack on Kurdish units or Kurdish militias is legitimate under international law,” Maas added.

His remarks were echoed by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said at a conservative party congress that Turkey had violated the “basis of the post-World War II order” by choosing to engage with military force instead of diplomacy to settle long-standing differences with the Kurds.

Opposition to the plan

Turkey began its operation into Syria on Oct. 9 with the stated goal of pushing Kurdish military forces away from the border so a 20-mile deep “safety zone” could be established as a buffer between the perpetually warring forces. Turkey has linked the Kurdish YPG militia forces to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, also known as the PKK, which is an internationally recognized terrorist organization with Marxist leanings.

Aside from creating the buffer zone, it has been reported that Turkey hoped to resettle some of the estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war in that nation and are living in Turkey. However, Turkey has also been accused of committing war crimes during the operation, such as targeting civilians, holding summary executions, and resettling Syrian refugees against their will while further displacing the native Kurdish population of the region.

“We also do not agree that Syrian civil war refugees who are now in Turkey are then sent to northeast Syria in this way into this security zone, possibly against their will,” Maas said, noting that the European Union has paid Turkey billions of dollars to continue holding refugees instead of allowing them to migrate northward into Europe. “Because we will not pay money for things that, according to our perspective, are not legitimate or legal.”

Sanctions on the horizon?

As for the current five-day ceasefire that has been tenuously holding — minus a few skirmishes here and there along the border — Maas said: “We will do everything for this truce to last longer than just the five days, and that the invasion is stopped for the time being.”

He also noted that, should Turkey continue to attack Kurdish forces inside Syria, Germany would take action against the fellow member of NATO. “We have been very clear that we are keeping other measures open — and they might also include economic sanctions,” he said.

DW noted that recent public polling in Germany showed that a massive 91% of Germans opposed selling arms to the Turks, and 65% were in favor of imposing “punitive economic measures” against Turkey if it persisted in the fight against the Kurds.

It is also worth noting that, in response to those diplomatically harsh words from Germany, Turkey has remained defiant, even suggesting that Germany and the rest of Europe should be grateful for what Turkey is doing. A spokesman for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, told DW: “European friends should be thankful to our soldiers for doing this very dangerous but important work” and insisted that Turkey wouldn’t cease it’s operation until all of the Kurdish “terrorists” had been pushed back from the border.

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