Swiss foreign minister criticises Turkish offensive in Syria

Ignazio Cassis has criticised the Turkish military operation in northern Syria calling it a flagrant violation of international law. 

On Thursday, when asked on public radio whether the military operation should be condemned, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs replied: “A military invasion by Turkey in Syria without a threat to Turkey violates UN principles”.

Switzerland had joined international leaders in calling for restraint and the respect of humanitarian law after Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria on Wednesday.

A statementexternal link published by the foreign ministry said that any further escalation of violence in northeast Syria “would have serious consequences for the already suffering civil population”.

It wrote that Switzerland was following “with concern” the situation on the Turkey-Syria border, where Turkish forces on Wednesday launched air strikes against Kurdish militias.

“The protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure as well as an immediate, unobstructed and lasting humanitarian corridor to ease the suffering population must be guaranteed,” it said.

According to the Reuters news agency, the operation could once again reshape the map of the Syrian conflict, dealing a blow to Kurdish-led forces – which Ankara sees as a security threat – that have fought against the Islamic State.

Turkey has also spoken about creating a space inside Syria where two million Syrian refugees who are currently hosted in Turkey could be settled.

Cassis also confirmed that Swiss jihadists held in Syrian camps are beyond the reach of Turkish attacks: “For the moment, there is no imminent danger”. The foreign minister also referred to a decision taken by the governing Federal Council this spring that “repatriation to Switzerland can be considered for children only, not for adults”.

Seeking a negotiated solution

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the military operation “would not bring any results”. He recognized that Turkey had border security issues, but said that such action would just exacerbate the suffering of civilians.

Juncker also referred to the refugee relocation idea: “if the Turkish plan is to create a security zone, then don’t count on any financing from the European Union”, he said.

The Swiss statement reiterated the country’s backing for UN-sponsored peace talks that have tried to find a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict. It welcomed the announcement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that a Syrian constitutional committee is set to meet in Geneva.

The offensive also comes just a few days after a US decision to militarily pull back from the region. President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to “destroy” the Turkish economy if Ankara went too far in its planned attack against the US-allied Kurds.

On Wednesday he reacted in a short press release to the Turkish action by saying that “the United States does not support this attack and clearly indicated to Turkey that the operation was a bad idea.”