The Arab League on Saturday condemned Turkey’s incursion in north-east Syria and warned of retaliatory measures unless Turkish troops withdrew from Syrian territory.
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Ankara’s offensive is a “direct threat to Arab national security”, the bloc said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting of foreign ministers at its headquarters in Cairo.
The statement called for “ending the aggression and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Turkey from all of Syria’s land”.
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit slammed the Turkish attack launched on Wednesday as an “invasion of an Arab land”.
The bloc is considering diplomatic and economic actions in response to Turkey’s move, as well as “military co-operation to confront the Turkish aggression”, the statement said.
Qatar, a close ally of Turkey, and Somalia registered reservations over the joint statement.
Iraq and Lebanon called for the reinstatement of Syria’s membership of the Arab League, which was suspended in 2011 over its violent crackdown on protests at the start of its civil war. Mr Aboul Gheit said this would require certain measures from the Syrian side.
Turkey has pressed its offensive despite international condemnation and the threat of sanctions, including from the United States and other Nato allies in Europe.
On Saturday its troops and allied Syrian rebel groups entered the border town of Ras Al Ain, one of two key objectives along with the town of Tel Abyad about 100 kilometres to the west.
Ankara says it wants to clear a 30km-deep strip along the border of US-supported Kurdish forces that it regards as terrorists and resettle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosting to this “safe zone”.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who were the main ground partner in the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria, has called on the international community to establish a no-fly zone over the north-east.
“All we want from the international community is a no-fly zone so we can have a fair war with Turkey,” SDF commander Redur Khalil said in a televised statement on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish troops moved to seize control of key highways in the region, the Turkish military said.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said that Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces had taken control of the M-4 highway connecting the towns of Manbij and Qamishli. The SDF said that Turkish troops and their allies reached the highway briefly before being pushed back again.
Turkish troops also cut the route linking the north-eastern city of Hassakeh with Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once commercial center, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-aligned group monitoring the Syrian civil war.
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