Middle East Analysis

Europe’s Response to Turkey’s Syria Invasion

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Across Europe, politicians are considering their responses to the shock of Turkey’s invasion of north east Syria. It remains unclear whether there will be a unified European approach to Ankara’s military move, which has thrust Syria and the Kurdish question back into the international limelight

So far, the European Union has issued a declaration by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, calling upon “Turkey to cease the unilateral military action. Renewed armed hostilities in the north-east will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements. Prospects for the UN-led political process to achieve peace in Syria will be more difficult”.

Member States have since met to “discuss how far they are ready to go on some measures that are on the table when it comes to the Turkish military activities in Syria”.

The High Representative also expressed grave concern that Turkey’s incursion could lead to an ISIS revival in Syria following a long campaign to defeat the group, which cost 11,000 Kurdish lives.

Within EU member states, there are demands for a strong response.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron held a joint news conference with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and said the Turkish invasion – over which both countries have decided to suspend arms exports to Ankara – risked escalating into an “unbearable humanitarian situation”.

“Our common wish is that the offensive must cease” Macron told reporter. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, one of Ankara’s main arms suppliers, said he would press for an EU ban on arms sales to Turkey.

In Sweden the opposition Left Party is urging the government to push for an EU arms embargo on Turkey.  Håkan Svenneling, the Left Party’s spokesman on foreign affairs told Radio Sweden that a strong EU response would force Turkey to “rethink the invasion and stop the invasion”.

In the UK, the Conservative government has issued a statement saying that they “do not support the action” of Turkey. But the opposition Labour party is being pushed harder. Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on north-east Syria, called on the UK “to suspend sharing any intelligence information with Turkey so they can’t use it against one of our allies” and provide further support to the Kurdish military, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

However, some EU states have close ties to Turkey, notably through NATO, and a unified response that would pressure Turkey to scale back its operation might prove to be out of reach.