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Tue, 28 Jan 2020 00:35 GMT

Turkey Accused of War Crimes and Ethnic Cleansing in Syria

Counterterrorism & Security

Ghada Ghaleb

Fri, 08 Nov 2019 17:23 GMT

A senior United States official has criticised President Trump’s administration for not doing enough to prevent Turkey's incursions into Syrian territory, which he said had caused "war crimes and ethnic cleansing," the New York Times (NYT) reported on Thursday November 7th.

NYT said it had obtained an internal memo written by US Deputy Special Envoy to the Coalition Against Isis, William Rubock, in which he stated that the US "did not try to take stronger measures to curb Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

He criticised the "tireless efforts of ethnic cleansing" by Turkey and its allies against the Kurds in Syria, which "can only be defined as war crimes or ethnic cleansing," according to NYT.

"One day when diplomatic history is written, one will wonder what happened here and why officials did not do more to prevent this, or at least why they did not speak more forcefully to blame Turkey for its behaviour," Rubock said according to NYT.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortigas declined to say whether these "alleged internal private contacts" were accurate. She said: "We have made clear that we strongly disagree with Erdoğan's decision to enter Syria and we have done everything to prevent this, except military confrontation.”

The spokesperson said the US had taken seriously reports that Turkish-backed fighters had committed abuses, including the killing of civilians. "These questions remain, and we have raised the issue at the highest levels with the Turkish state," she said.

The Turkish and US presidents are scheduled to meet in the White House next Wednesday, where they will discuss the situation in north-eastern Syria after the cessation of fighting between Turkish forces and pro-Syrian factions and Turkish and Kurdish forces.

An agreement with Russia and a deal with the US on October 17th brought a halt to Turkey's hostilities against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria, which started on October 9th.

Prohibited weapons and carcinogenic mixture

The autonomous region of north-eastern Syria confirmed on Wednesday November 6th that Turkey had used internationally prohibited weapons in its ongoing battle against them which had caused the burning of the bodies of about 30 civilians, including children.

Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday that Turkey was trying to implement policies of "Genocide and ethnic cleansing" in northern Syria under the cover of international law, in a very dangerous precedent.

Abdi also wrote on Twitter that the statement by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the possibility of forming a committee to study the Turkish proposal for the construction of communities in the areas of "occupation", was a serious complicity of the UN with the policies of "genocide," as he put it.

The UN mission was to protect the local population, not to participate in "ethnic cleansing,” Abdi said.

The Autonomous Administration of north-eastern Syria (NES) has condemned, on its website Turkey's attempts to hide the crime and its attempts to prevent the formation of international commissions of inquiry.

The NES confirmed the possession of evidence incriminating Turkey and expressed its readiness to "receive the competent committees and cooperate with them in areas of Turkish attack." The administration said that cases confirming the use of prohibited weapons and samples needed to be subject to medical and legal procedures, "thus condemning the Turkish state and its mercenaries as well as punishing them.”

Joan Mustafa, head of the health authority in northern Syria, told Al Arabiya television that the burns examined by doctors on the bodies of those injured by Turkish shells were caused by non-conventional weapons.

He said that "by simple analysis we have found the presence of mixtures of tungsten, a mixture of carcinogens in the long run… These samples can be submitted to an international commission of inquiry of which we demand the formation.”

The head of the foreign relations commission in the autonomous administration, Abdulkarim Omar, called on the international community, in particular the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN, to send specialist committees to investigate cases in which white phosphorus was used by the Turkish state.

Earlier, amid a growing catalogue of evidence that Turkey is already using white phosphorus, the UN announced the start of investigations by its chemical weapons experts.

Erdoğan’s threats

The Turkish president again threatened on Thursday to open the doors of Europe to immigrants and asylum seekers if no more international support was provided during a visit to Hungary.

"Whether the support comes or not, we will continue to receive our guests but to a limited extent… If we see that this is not going well, as I have said before, we will have no choice but to open the doors. If we open the doors, it is clear where their destination will be," Erdoğan said at the press conference alongside Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In March 2016, Turkey and the European Union agreed to halt the flow of migrants to bloc countries. The deal was meant to stop one of the most pressing problems for the EU, the exodus of millions of asylum seekers from countries in turmoil.

Ankara has not stopped making claims that the EU has shirked its responsibilities, according to the agreement. But a spokesperson for the EU confirmed that Turkey had been granted €5.6 billion under the agreement, adding that "the remaining balance will be sent soon.”

On several occasions, Erdoğan has threatened European countries with refugees in exchange for concessions, including the safe zone in Syria and amounts of money in what might appear to be a ransom tactic by the Turkish president.

Middle East