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Coveney attends EU council to discuss military action by Turkey in Syria

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney is attending an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg to d...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.32 14 Oct 2019


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Coveney attends EU council to...

Coveney attends EU council to discuss military action by Turkey in Syria

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.32 14 Oct 2019


Share this article


The Tánaiste Simon Coveney is attending an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg to discuss the ongoing military action by Turkey in Syria.

Afghanistan and Ukraine will also be on the agenda.

Ministers will also exchange views with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko over lunch.

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Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney said: "My EU colleagues and I will discuss the latest developments in Syria with UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, including the creation of the Constitutional Committee announced by the UN on 23rd September.

"As I stated last Wednesday I am deeply troubled by the launching of a military operation in north-eastern Syria.

"The protection of civilians, humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law must be paramount and any refugee returns must be voluntary, safe and dignified.

"Officials in my department met with the Turkish ambassador on Friday to reiterate these concerns."

It comes as Kurdish-led fighters and Syrian government troops are to be deployed side by side along the country's border with Turkey.

The announcement marks a major shift in alliance for Syria's Kurds, who had long-been partners with the US in the fight against Islamic State.

It is in response to Turkey's offensive in northern Syria, and the Kurdish-led administration there says the army deployment is designed to counter "this aggression and liberate the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries have entered".

Meanwhile France's President Emmanuel Macron has told the leaders of the US and Turkey that the offensive must "stop immediately".

Alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he told the world leaders: "We have a common desire that this offensive ends.

"This offensive risks creating an unsustainable humanitarian situation and to help Islamic State re-emerge in the region."

Turkey's incursion has raised international alarm - and came after US President Donald Trump's surprise move to pull a group of US forces from a section of the border.

The US is considering plans to withdraw the bulk of its troops from northern Syria in the coming days, two anonymous US officials told Reuters on Sunday.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced earlier that he was acting on orders from Mr Trump to begin a deliberate withdrawal from northern Syria, where the US has around 1,000 forces.

Mr Esper did not elaborate on the timing of the withdrawal, saying only that he wanted it to be done "as safely and quickly as possible".

The move would be a faster-than-expected US pullout as Turkey's offensive against the Kurds escalates.

Syrian-Kurdish officials and a war monitor say at least 14 people, including five civilians, have been killed Turkish airstrikes on a convoy.

Protesters against the ongoing Turkey-led offensive are said to be among the dead.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the convoy, guarded by armed men, was hit Sunday when it arrived in the border town of Ras al Ain.

The town has been seized by advancing Turkish-allied forces.

A neighbourhood on the edge of the town remains in the hands of Kurdish-led fighters.

Other issues

Turkey's drilling activities within Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone are also on the agenda in Luxembourg.

Mr Coveney adds that Ireland stands in full solidarity with Cyprus - and calls on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from further illegal activity.

EU foreign ministers will also take stock of the current situation in Afghanistan, following the presidential elections at the end of September.

Mr Coveney says Ireland welcomes the fact that the elections were held on time, but regrets that threats of large-scale violence likely impacted negatively on voter turnout in many areas.

Additional reporting: IRN


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Angela Merkel Coveney EU Foreign Affairs Council Emmanuel Macron Islamic State Kurdish Luxembourg Mark Esper North-eastern Syria. Simon Coveney Syria Turkey Vadym Prystaiko Yrian Observatory For Human Rights

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