UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- The EU members on the UN Security Council on Thursday demanded Turkey cease its military operation in northeast Syria.
"We are deeply concerned by the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria. We call upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action as we do not believe it will address Turkey's underlying security concerns," said a joint statement of the six countries.
Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Poland -- the EU members on the Security Council -- plus Estonia, the incoming EU member on the council, issued the joint statement after the Security Council held closed-door consultations on the situation in northeast Syria after Turkey launched a military operation there.
"Renewed armed hostilities in the northeast will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements," said the statement read out to reporters by Jurgen Schulz, Germany's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, on behalf of the six countries.
Unilateral military action on Turkey's part threatens the progress achieved by the global coalition against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. It will undermine the security of the coalition's local partners, and risks protracted instability in northeast Syria, providing fertile ground for the resurgence of the IS, which remains a significant threat to regional, international and European security, according to the statement.
Turkey launched its military operation into Syria on Wednesday following a U.S. withdrawal from the region, where Kurdish fighters had been fighting Islamic State terrorist militants alongside U.S. troops. The U.S. withdrawal put the Kurdish militia at the mercy of Turkish troops as Ankara labels them as terrorists.
The joint statement dismissed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's idea of a "safe zone" on the border with Syria, which, Ankara said, would ease its security concerns and also become a gateway for the resettlement of huge numbers of Syrian refugees.
"It is unlikely that a so-called safe zone in northeast Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return as laid down by (UN refugee agency) UNHCR," said the statement. "We maintain our position that refugee and IDP (internally displaced person) returns to their places of origin must be safe, voluntary and dignified when conditions allow. Any attempt at demographic change would be unacceptable."
"We want to be clear that the EU will not provide stabilization or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored," said the statement.
Turkey is a key partner of the European Union, a NATO ally and a member in the global coalition against the IS, said the statement. "It is a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and the region, and we recognize Turkey's important role as a host country of Syrian refugees."
In the context of Turkey's military incursion in Syria, the statement said: "We remain committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We reaffirm that a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict cannot be achieved militarily but only through a genuine political transition ... This process should not be undermined by any party."
The statement called for the protection of civilians and unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout Syria.