News Analysis: UN resolution may force Turkey to stop offensive against Syria's Afrin

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-01 22:32:46|Editor: Liangyu
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ISTANBUL, March 1 (Xinhua) -- As Turkey is rejecting demands for suspending its military operation against Kurdish militia in northwestern Syria following a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Arab country, Ankara may have to cut short the offensive in Afrin under increasing international pressure, according to analysts.

Turkey would risk sanctions if it does not comply with the UN resolution, Hasan Koni, a professor of public international law at Istanbul Kultur University, told Xinhua.

Since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2401 on Feb. 24, Ankara has argued that it does not cover the ongoing operation in Afrin.

Underlining that the UN resolution is binding for all member states, Koni said, "International pressure over Turkey may well mount in the coming days."

Turkey argues that Resolution 2401 is aiming at providing humanitarian aid to civilians in areas under siege by the Syrian army and that military operations targeting terrorists are excluded from it.

Through the operation against Afrin, Turkey is seeking to clear the region of terrorists and save civilians there, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, arguing the UN resolution focuses on ending the massacre of civilians in Eastern Ghouta region where the Syrian army is fighting against Islamist rebels.

Resolution 2401 calls for at least a 30-day ceasefire throughout war-torn Syria to allow for humanitarian aid in areas under siege.

Turkish troops launched Operation Olive Branch along with allied Syrian rebels on Jan. 20 to drive Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), out of Afrin on the Turkish border, as Ankara regards it as a terror group linked with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting against the Turkish state for over three decades.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Turkey as well as the United States and the European Union.

Resolution 2401 may be used to block the Afrin operation, Cahit Armagan Dilek, a former staff officer in the Turkish military, told Xinhua.

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of State, has called on Turkey to go over the resolution for a better understanding of it.

"I would encourage Turkey to go and read this resolution, see what the world ... is saying about this," she said on Tuesday, noting the resolution calls for a ceasefire throughout Syria.

Following a telephone conversation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday, the French side said Macron laid emphasis on the ceasefire covering the entire Syria land, including Afrin.

Hami Aksoy, a spokesman with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, described Nauert's remarks as totally baseless while accusing the French side of being dishonest and wrongly informing the public.

In addition, Ankara maintains that the UN resolution on Syrian ceasefire is not binding for it, arguing that no civilians have been hurt in the Turkish operation and that humanitarian assistance has not been suspended in the Afrin region.

Some Damascus-backed militia forces have reportedly entered Afrin through a corridor on the southeastern part of the region which is controlled by the Syrian government.

All signs suggest that the Turkish operation would be stopped under international pressure before Turkish troops make it to the city of Afrin, said Dilek, head of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute.

The recent arrival of pro-Damascus militia forces in Afrin may be seen as a sign that the Syrian army may enter the city based on a deal with the YPG, he said.

Both Koni and Dilek felt that Resolution 2401 covers Afrin as well, as it is valid for the entire Syrian territory and calls upon all parties to lift the sieges of populated areas to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Under Article 2 of the resolution, the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against terrorist organizations as designated by the UN Security Council.

The YPG is not, however, recognized as a terrorist organization by the world body.

Ankara's ambassador to Berlin was told by the German Foreign Ministry that the UN resolution is binding for all parties in Syria and covers the entirety of the Syrian territory, Germany's Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.

Despite pressure from Western allies, Erdogan has voiced Ankara's determination to press ahead with the operation against the YPG.

Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, felt that the international pressure upon Ankara would increase if more and more claims spread about civilian casualties in the Afrin operation.

In case the Afrin operation be brought before the UN Security Council, then Ankara's attitude may change, he told Xinhua.

How Russia, with whose tacit approval Ankara is conducting the Afrin offensive, would act in such a case shall be highly important, said Ulgen, a former diplomat.

With the offensive gaining momentum last week, Turkish troops and allies managed to totally clear the YPG of the area bordering Turkey at the beginning of this week.

President Erdogan said early last week that Turkish troops would rapidly move in the days ahead to besiege the city of Afrin, the central town of the district.