Juncker Calls on Turkey to Stop Military Operation: Syria Update

Juncker Calls on Turkey to Stop Military Operation: Syria Update

October 9, 2019

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally announced the beginning of a military offensive into northeastern Syria, three days after President Donald Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way.

Erdogan said the operation, code-named “Peace Spring,” was meant to force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area and target Islamic State militants.

Earlier in the day, a small forward group of Turkish forces entered Syria at two points along the frontier, close to the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, according to a Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Key Developments

  • Turkish military said the operation began at 4 p.m. local time and that it informed all the relevant parties beforehand.
  • U.S. senators including Lindsey Graham, a key ally of Trump, slammed Turkey’s incursion and threatened punishment against Ankara.
  • Erdogan said he spoke with Putin, who has been very “constructive” as the Turkish military prepared for its advance.
  • Footage carried by Turkish televisions including CNN-Turk showed Turkish aircraft and howitzers shelling positions held by Kurdish militants around the Syrian town of Tal Abyad.
  • The lira fell as much 0.7% after the operation began.
  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged Turkey to stop its military incursion into Syria. He was speaking in a personal capacity.

Lira Falls Even as Banks Try to Buoy Currency (6:41 p.m.)

The Turkish currency reversed earlier gains to fall as much as 0.8% after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the cross-border operation. The losses picked up even as state lenders increased the amount of dollars they were selling to the market, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Kurdish Militants Calls for Help Against ‘Disaster’ (6:25 p.m.)

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces urged the international community and the U.S.-led coalition to help prevent what they said was an imminent humanitarian disaster as many of the targeted areas are highly populated.

‘We ask the international community and all countries in the international coalition against Daesh, who we fought together against and won, to carry out their responsibilities and prevent an imminent humanitarian disaster, the SDF said in a statement.

Juncker Calls on Turkey to Stop Operations (6:20 p.m.)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking to the European Parliament, urged Turkey to stop its military incursion into Syria. “I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already as we are speaking,” Juncker said. “This military action is not leading to good results and we have to bring this to the attention of our Turkish friends.

“If the plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the EU to pay for any of it,” he told lawmakers.

Juncker was speaking in a personal capacity. The EU, composed of 28 governments — is still trying to come with a joint statement to address the issue.

S&P Global Ratings Says Turkish Operation Poses Economic Risks (6:05 p.m.)

Although the operation is not expected to have any immediate impact on Turkey’s sovereign ratings, it raises risks for Turkey’s currency and balance of payments, S&P Global Ratings said in a report published after the incursion began. Potential consequences of the operation could include retaliatory attacks in the region including on Turkey’s tourism infrastructure, the agency said.

U.S. Senators Slam Turkish Operation, Signals Sanctions (5:47 p.m.)

Trump has faced widespread criticism at home, including from trusted allies, over his decision to abandon the Kurdish YPG militia to Turkey’s offensive. One of the most vocal opponents of the move has been Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He sent off a volley of tweets Wednesday, slamming the offensive. “I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working,” Graham said, adding he was praying for “our Kurdish allies” and threatening to make Erdogan “pay a heavy price.”

Graham has said he would introduce a resolution to impose sanctions on Turkey jointly with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Turkey must pay a heavy price for attacking our Syrian Kurdish partners. Senators on both sides of the aisle won’t support abandoning the one regional group most responsible for putting ISIS on its heels,” Van Hollen said. “Our bipartisan sanctions bill is being finalized now.”

Turkey Says It’s Informed Various Countries Before the Operation Began (5:23 p.m.)

Turkish defense ministry said in a tweet that the government started informing the U.S., Russia, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, NATO and United Nations about the incursion in northeast Syria starting from 2 p.m. local time.

The ministry also said the operation began at 4 p.m. local time, meaning Turkey started informing some of these countries about the incursion roughly two hours before its so-called “Peace Spring” operation began.

Putin Calls, Urges Caution (5:20 p.m.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin cautioned Erdogan as the Turkish military began its operation. Putin stressed “the importance of guaranteeing the unity and territorial integrity of Syria and respect for its sovereignty,” a Kremlin statement said.

According to the Turkish side, Erdogan thanked the Russian president for maintaining a constructive stance as the military prepared for its advance.

Turkish Jets Hit YPG Positions Near Tal Abyad (4:40 p.m.)

Turkey’s F-16 warplanes and howitzers began hitting positions held by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia near the town of Tal Abyad, according footage carried by CNN-Turk television.

Turkey also summoned the U.S. ambassador to the foreign ministry to inform him about the operation, Turkey’s foreign ministry said.

— With assistance by Dana Khraiche

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