Turkey FM, Arab League chief clash over Afrin offensive at security conference

Turkey FM, Arab League chief clash over Afrin offensive at security conference
2 min read
19 February, 2018
Turkey's top diplomat and the Egyptian head of the Arab League have got into a war or words over a controversial Turkish military operation in Syria.
Ankara launched an offensive in the Afrin area of northern Syria last month [Getty]

Turkey's foreign minister and the Egyptian head of the Arab League have got into a war or words over the Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

Mevlut Cavusoglu and Ahmed Aboul-Gheit had the heated exchange on Sunday during a panel talk at a security conference in Munich.

"I appeal to my Turkish colleague… take care that you are intervening in an Arab country south of your borders. So lay down certain principals prior to the way you are acting," Aboul-Gheit told Cavusoglu.

"I see an ugly, ugly confrontation in Syria, and I see great powers competing amongst themselves and the regional powers intervening in Syrian affairs," he added.

Cavusoglu responded to the warning during the public talk, defending Ankara's month-old offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

"We are there to defeat a terrorist organisation, and we are using our legitimate right of self-defence," Cavusoglu said, before criticising what he said was the failure of the Arab League's attempts to curtail the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

Ankara launched an offensive in the Afrin area of northern Syria last month against the Kurdish force, which is allied with US forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The operation has created tension between the United States and Turkey, two key members of NATO, a military alliance dominated by Washington.

Cavusoglu on Monday warned against any intervention by Syrian pro-government forces alongside Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Mevlut Cavusoglu was reacting to a report from Syrian state news agency SANA saying pro-government forces were expected in the Afrin region to counter the Turkish offensive.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously threatened to expand the operation to include the YPG-held town of Manbij and other towns leading to the Iraqi border.

Damascus previously denounced Ankara's "aggression" in Afrin but had never explicitly said it would intervene before Monday.