EU's Mogherini 'extremely worried' by ongoing Turkish offensive in Syria
BULENT KILIC (AFP)
The European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Monday she was "extremely worried" by Turkey's offensive against Kurdish militia targets in Syria, saying she would seek urgent talks with Turkish officials.
"I'm extremely worried and will discuss this among other things with our Turkish interlocutors," Mogherini said after a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers where the issue was raised, adding that she was concerned about the impact on civilians and on the UN-backed Syrian peace process.
Ankara on Monday intensified its offensive to oust the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia from their enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing there would be no stepping back in the campaign launched on Saturday.
Turkey considers the YPG to be a terror group and the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
Divergence of views on the YPG has been one of the major sources of tension between Turkey and the United States, which view the militia group as an ally in the war against ISIS.
Mogherini said she was worried "for two main reasons".
"One side is the humanitarian one -- we need to make sure that humanitarian access is guaranteed and that civilian population and people are not suffering from military activities on the ground," she said.
The second issue, Mogherini said, was that the offensive "can undermine seriously the resumption of talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria".
Mogherini said she hoped to set up a meeting with Turkey's European affairs minister Omer Celik when he visits Brussels "in the coming days".
France has called for a UN Security Council meeting Monday to discuss concerns over flashpoint areas in Syria including the Turkish offensive.
Three days of fighting since Turkey launched an offensive on the northern Syrian region of Afrin have left at least 54 Syrian combattants dead, a monitor said Monday.
Among them were 26 Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces that have controlled the region on the border with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Many of them were killed in Turkish air strikes, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.
Another 19 fighters from the ranks of the pro-Ankara rebels who are fighting alongside Turkey were also killed, the monitoring group said, adding that nine more unidentified bodies were found on the battlefield.
The civilian death toll rose to 24 over three days, Abdel Rahman said.
Two of them died as a result of Kurdish fire while the rest were killed by Turkish shelling and air strikes, he said.
Ankara has denied being responsible for any civilian deaths.
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She should deal w EU antisemitism!!!