United Nations: UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen has warned of a dangerous escalation in the war-torn Arab nation.
“In repeated briefings, I have warned of the dangers of military escalation in Syria. I am here in person today to tell you that escalatory dynamics are indeed taking place, and this is worrying and dangerous,” he told the Security Council in a briefing on Tuesday.
For many months there has been a slow increase in mutual strikes between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on one side, and Turkey and armed opposition groups on the other, across northern Syria and with violence spilling over into Turkish territory, he said.
On November 20, a week after the bombing in Istanbul, which Turkey attributed to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — a claim that the SDF denied — Turkey launched what it called the “Claw-Sword Air Operation”.
There were also reports of SDF strikes on Turkish forces and armed opposition-controlled areas and inside of Turkish territory, said Pedersen.
“The trend lines are deeply worrying, and carry real dangers of further escalation. Let me warn the Security Council of the scenario where large-scale military operations by one actor then have knock-on effects across all other theatres, unraveling the strategic stalemate that has brought a measure of relative calm for almost three years,” he said.
Such an escalation would not only compound the devastating harm already meted out to Syrian civilians. It would also further endanger regional stability. Listed terrorist groups that are subdued but not defeated would immediately take advantage of any fresh instability, he warned.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation, whether in the air or on the ground, he said.
“Let me stress that Turkey, the armed opposition and the SDF should de-escalate now.”
Pedersen called “loudly and clearly” on all actors to restrain themselves and engage in serious efforts to reinstate the calm, move toward a nationwide cease-fire and a cooperative approach to counter-terrorism in line with international humanitarian law.
He said the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure is absolutely essential and that Syria needs less military activity and more focus on the political process and implementation of Security Council Resolution 2254.