Istanbul / Washington (AP) - The Turkish military offensive against the Kurdish militias in northern Syria is receiving fierce criticism internationally. The EU states called on Turkey on Wednesday evening in a joint statement to stop the operation.
US President Donald Trump said: "The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea." Shortly after the start of the Turkish offensive, several people were reported dead in the Syrian border area, including allegedly several civilians.
Trump had paved the way for Wednesday's Turkish invasion with the withdrawal of US troops from the Syrian border area to Turkey. Critics accuse him of abandoning Kurdish militias in northern Syria. They were the closest allies of the US armed forces in the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS). In several German cities - such as in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Duisburg - there were indignant protests by Kurdish demonstrators, who accused Turkey of an "anti-international war of aggression" and demanded the immediate end of all arms deliveries to Ankara.
The US president threatened the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan with economic consequences, should this in Syria not "as humane as possible" proceed. Asked by a reporter if he was worried that Erdogan might "wipe out" the Kurds, Trump said, "If that happens, I'll wipe out his economy."
The Republican justified the withdrawal of the US troops again: he had always made it clear "that I do not want to fight these endless, pointless wars - especially those that do not benefit the United States." He also defended himself against charges of abandoning the Kurds. These would have fought anyway out of self-interest against the IS and wanted their own territory for themselves. "They did not help us in World War II, they did not help us with Normandy."
Because of the offensive, senators in the US Congress want to personally sanction Erdogan. This emerges from the draft for a bipartisan resolution by Lindsey Graham (Republican) and Chris Van Hollen (Democrats), which the two senators released on Wednesday (local time) on Twitter. The draft stipulates that any possessions of Erdogan, the Turkish vice-president and five ministers in the US would be frozen. In addition, visa requirements for the political leadership of the country would be tightened.
In the first few hours of the Turkish attacks, which started at 4 pm local time on Wednesday, at least 15 people were killed, activists said. Among the eight civilian casualties were two children, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The other dead were fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. The Observatory also reported more than 40 casualties, including 13 civilians.
Erdogan had announced the start of the long-planned military mission on Wednesday afternoon via Twitter. At first, air raids and artillery fire caused fear and terror, and in the evening Turkish ground troops marched across the border. "Our heroic Turkish forces and the National Syrian Army have begun their ground offensive in the East of the (Euphrates) River as part of Operation Peace Spring," said the Ministry of Defense in Ankara. The Syrian National Army means Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.
The target of the offensive is the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls a large area on the Syrian side of the border. Turkey sees in it an offshoot of the banned Kurdish workers' party PKK in Turkey and thus a terrorist organization. Erdogan wrote in the afternoon on Twitter: "Our goal is to destroy the terror corridor we want to build on our southern border and bring peace and tranquility to the region."
First of all Turkish air raids and artillery fire shook two main locations: Tall Abjad and Ras al-Ain. Ras al-Ain is located opposite the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar in the southeastern Turkish province of Sanliurfa, where the command center for the offensive is located. Tall Abjad is located near the Turkish border town Akcakale. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali rebuffed Syrian rebels in the evening, saying that they had joined forces with the Turkish army in Tall Abyad. The attack by the Turkish forces on the ground had been repulsed, he wrote on Twitter.
After the beginning of the offensive on Thursday morning (local time) the UN Security Council in New York wants to deal with the actions of Turkey. Germany had requested on behalf of the five EU member states of the Council - next to Germany, Poland, Belgium, France and Great Britain - that the issue be addressed in a meeting, it was said from diplomatic circles.
The joint statement by the EU states said: "Renewed armed conflict in the north-east will further undermine stability throughout the region, exacerbate the suffering of civilians and provoke additional displacement." Turkey is also jeopardizing the international coalition's success against ISIS -Militia.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in Berlin that there is a threat of another humanitarian catastrophe and a new refugee movement. "We call on Turkey to end its offensive and peacefully pursue its security interests." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey must ensure that its actions are proportionate and measured. He wants to get together with Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday.
The draft resolution of US Senators Graham and Van Hollen provides for numerous punitive measures against Turkey. Among other things, the sale of US arms for the Turkish armed forces would be banned. Even foreigners who were doing arms deals with the Turkish forces would be sanctioned. According to government figures, Germany had provided Turkey with war weapons worth more than 240 million euros last year - which accounted for almost one third of German war weapon exports.
Van Hollen announced that the draft resolution would be introduced as soon as Congress returned from its session break next week. He will then ask for an immediate vote. Graham, in his own words, expects broad support for the resolution. After the Senate, the House of Representatives would have to vote. Trump could then veto, which could be overruled only with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.