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EU agrees to suspend exporting arms to Turkey amid 'unacceptable' offensive against Kurds

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the unanimous move is in response to Turkey’s “unacceptable unilateral military action in northeast Syria”.

Syrian government forces enter the Al-Tabqa airbase south of Syria's Raqqa region today.
Syrian government forces enter the Al-Tabqa airbase south of Syria's Raqqa region today.
Image: DPA/PA Images

EU MEMBER STATES have unanimously agreed to suspend arms exports to Turkey.

The decision was made at a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg today.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the unanimous move is in response to Turkey’s “unacceptable unilateral military action in northeast Syria”.

Coveney said he and his European counterparts condemn Turkey’s actions, saying the offensive “undermines the stability of the region, will result in more civilian suffering and will make prospects for the UN-led peace process in Syria much more difficult”.

“It also undermines progress made in the international fight against ISIS. I again urge Turkey to cease unilateral military action and withdraw its forces from Syria.

“Respect for international humanitarian law and unhindered humanitarian access are also vital,” Coveney said in a statement.

The Pentagon has begun removing all US troops in northern Syria, an official confirmed today.

Nearly 1,000 US troops will vacate the country, leaving behind only a small contingent of 150 in the southern Syria base at Al Tanf, the official said.

“We are executing [President Donald Trump's] order,” the official told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been pressing a deadly assault against Kurdish forces — a key US ally in the five-year battle to crush the Islamic State group — in northeastern Syria since last Wednesday.

Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of the area — clearing the way for the Turkish incursion — has been roundly criticised as a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies that risks triggering a resurgence of Islamic State.

Sanctions 

The top congressional Democrat in the US today said she agrees with Republicans on the need for a resolution to overturn  Trump’s “dangerous” troop withdrawal, as the president threatened tough sanctions against Ankara.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said congressional Democrats and Republicans were forging ahead with their own sweeping sanctions bill — saying the measures being drawn up by the White House did not go far enough.

“Big sanctions on Turkey coming!” tweeted Trump — who has pre-approved “very significant” sanctions to dissuade Turkey from further offensive action in northeastern Syria, so far to no avail.

Pelosi said she held talks with senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who split with the president over the Syrian withdrawal.

“Our first order of business was to agree that we must have a bipartisan, bicameral joint resolution to overturn the President’s dangerous decision in Syria immediately,” Pelosi said on Twitter.

The Syrian regime today deployed troops near the Turkish border and entered a key city to contain Ankara’s deadly offensive.

The army has kept a presence in Kurdish-controlled Qamishli and Hasakeh in Syria’s northeast since the 2011 outbreak of the country’s civil war, and deployed a limited number of troops around the strategic city of Manbij last year at the request of Kurdish forces.

Their new deployment, notably inside Manbij, marks the regime’s return to a region from which Damascus started to withdraw in 2012 and a significant gain for President Bashar al-Assad, who has vowed to reclaim all Syrian territory.

Death toll 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said the Turkish attack has already killed 133 Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters and 69 civilians.

On the Turkish side, four soldiers and 18 civilians have been killed, either in fighting or from Kurdish cross-border fire, according to Turkish sources.

The Observatory has put the number of pro-Turkish Syrian forces killed at 108.

Over 150,000 people have been displaced, according to the United Nations. Unicef estimates that this figures includes nearly 70,000 children.

At least four children have been killed and nine others injured in northeast Syria, Unicef said today. Seven children have reportedly also been killed in Turkey.

At least 170,000 children could need humanitarian assistance as a result of ongoing violence in the area.

Contains reporting from © AFP 2019  

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