RNA - Syria’s government, which has paid a heavy price for Ankara’s double standards in the seven-year war, has condemned the capture of Afrin by the Turkish military, calling on Ankara to “immediately” pull out troops from the north-western Syrian city. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has also voiced strong opposition to Turkey’s takeover of Afrin in two letters to the United Nations on Monday, protesting the move as "illegitimate.”
The Ministry says in its letters, "Syria condemns the Turkish occupation of Afrin and the crimes it is committing there, and demands the invading forces immediately withdraw from the Syrian territory they occupied."
This is not a mere Syrian government propaganda:
- Turkey’s decision to attack and occupy Afrin is a flagrant violation of International Law. In the view of most international lawyers, the Turkish strike on Syria is a crystal-clear violation of the UN Charter as well. So why doesn’t anybody, except Iran and Russia and some international lawyers, seem to care? The uncomfortable answer seems to be that, at least with respect to this question - can a state use military force against ethnic minorities of another state? - international law simply doesn’t matter very much. And this suits the Turkish government, the United States, and the Trump regime just fine.
- This may sound like an endorsement of lawlessness, but it’s actually a worldview that the leader of the Turkish government has embraced. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have embraced it too. Aside from Iran and Russia - allies of Syria - most states, including Turkey, have either supported the terrorist groups and their utter depravity in Syria or refrained from criticizing them. This gap is striking. If Turkey is flouting a law that usefully constrains nations who otherwise might be tempted to go to war, it could be increasing Syrian instability.
- The UN Charter sets out clear rules for when military force is permitted. Its Article 2(4) requires member states to refrain “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The charter’s only specific exceptions to this broad prohibition are when a state acts in “collective or individual self-defense” (Article 51) or when the Security Council authorizes states to use force in order to “maintain or restore international peace and security” (Article 42). The text and history of the UN Charter explain why most international lawyers believe the presence of Turkish forces in Afrin is illegal.
- Nor could Turkey claim under Article 51 that its occupation of Afrin is an act of self-defense, since the people of Afrin have not attacked Turkey. More so, Turkey has no UN Security Council mandate and the Syrian government has never directly threatened or actually used its military forces against Turkish aircraft or troops. Therefore, not only the capture of Afrin has violated the UN Charter, but many member states, including Iran and Russia, have rejected the possibility of any alternative legal conclusion by Ankara. The same conclusion could be made about the numerous states that have publicly supported the US military action and its proxy militants’ attacks against Syria.
To be sure, Turkey’s actions in Afrin - and, notably, its failure to issue any legal justification or UN mandate for its use of force - suggest it does not think Article 2(4) is significant or important. After all, the article didn’t stop the United States in similar cases in which it captured and occupied Syrian territory. Most international legal scholars believe the US war on Syria also violates the UN Charter, for example, but this deterred neither the US nor the other states that joined its disastrous regime-change campaign. Other examples can be cited, such as the airstrikes carried out by Israeli warplanes against pro-Syrian government forces in the Golan Heights.
According to Fars News Agency, all things being equal, International Law matters in Afrin and the United Nations will not become an irrelevant bystander. It should operate as the final authority – as demanded by the Syrian government – on the Turkish decision to use force. Under the same law, the world body should exert pressure on Ankara to act in concert with its international obligations in the occupied city. As maintained by the Syrian Foreign Ministry, “Turkey's behaviour and attacks do not only threaten citizens and the unity of Syria's land and people - they also prolong the war on Syria as a service to terrorism and its supporters.”
This is important, as the bellicose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just vowed to further expand unlawful military operations against Kurdish militants to the eastern parts of Syria, such as Manbij and Ayn al-Arab or Kobani. International Law says Turkish troops and their Qaeda-allied FSA proxies cannot be allowed to engage in yet wider mass looting of Kurdish-owned homes and businesses in various cities and towns in Syrian Kurdistan. Nor can the US be allowed to continue its completely illegal occupation of parts of Eastern Syria, which is an act of aggression by any standard. Now is the time for the UN Security Council to act to force the occupying troops pull their troops out of the war-ravaged state.