Coalition of American civil society groups issues joint statement on Turkey’s threats of invading northeast Syria

WASHINGTON, DC Considering the Turkish government’s renewed threats of unprovoked military action against northeast Syria, we condemn Turkey’s illegal and dangerous posturing as a coalition of concerned Americans. We pledge to pursue sanctions against Turkey should it undertake this unprovoked cross-border attack.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched a sustained series of unprovoked military campaigns into northern Syria in violation of the Geneva Conventions. They have done so under the false pretext of combatting terrorism.

Following the territorial defeat of ISIS, a democratic project has succeeded in northeast Syria. This democratic society was built by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and safeguarded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America’s closest and most reliable ally in the fight against ISIS for nearly a decade.

Under the AANES, northeast Syria is home to Arabs, Kurds and Christians and values ethno-religious pluralism and gender equality.

Turkey seeks to destroy this budding, yet fragile democratic project.

Contrary to Turkish claims, northeast Syria poses no security threat to Turkey. The AANES and SDF consistently serve to prevent the reconstitution of ISIS.

Turkey’s further military action into northeast Syria will embolden ISIS and other jihadist groups, as observed following each successive Turkish invasion since 2016. It has been confirmed by multiple sources that, in addition to conventional Turkish forces, Turkey’s military campaigns in northeast Syria have leveraged ISIS fighters and jihadist militias.

If Turkey wishes to combat terror by creating a so-called safe zone, it may do so within its borders without violating the territorial integrity of its neighbor. Turkey cannot be allowed to use a “safe-zone” as a pretext to land grab as it has been doing in other parts of northern Syria, such as Afrin. Turkish President Erdogan aims to stoke tension and solidify his nationalist base as his domestic popularity continues to suffer and presidential elections draw near. Turkey’s threats of military action against northeast Syria only prolong the Syrian civil war and put American service members at continued risk.

We call on the Biden administration to prevent Turkey from launching another illegal Turkish invasion of northeast Syria and expanding its occupation. We call on Congress to ensure any military action is met with swift and forceful economic and military sanctions on Turkey.

American Friends of Kurdistan president Diliman Abdulkader states, “Turkey must be held accountable for its continued threats against the Kurds and other minorities in the region. Erdogan’s goal is to invade, occupy, and Turkify land outside the Turkish border. The Biden administration and Congress have an opportunity to stop Erdogan before he moves forward on yet another unjustified invasion. The Erdogan regime has become a significant security concern for the people of northeast Syria, who is simply trying to recover from the civil war.”

According to Richard Ghazal, executive director of In Defense of Christians, “Turkey has demonstrated its commitment to destroy the budding democracy in northeast Syria and eradicate the final remaining Aramaic-speaking Christian towns through daily bombing campaigns. This is unconscionable. Erdogan’s game is not merely reckless; it’s a methodical and deliberate test of US and NATO resolve.”

“Ankara must be held accountable for its rising tide of regional aggression, most recently in the form of Erdogan’s threat to launch cross-border attacks against America’s battle-tested Arab, Kurdish, Syriac-Assyrian, and other allies,” said executive director of The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Aram Hamparian. “That needs to start with an immediate ban on arms sales and should also include strong sanctions against Erdogan and his inner circle.”

“Turkey’s most recent actions in northeast Syria further demonstrate Erdogan’s pattern of aggression and efforts to destabilize regions around the world, including South Asia, where he supports terrorists in Indian Kashmir and has an increasingly dangerous relationship with the Pakistani military, contrary to US interests,” said Hindu American Foundation managing director Samir Kalra. “It would be reckless to sell any arms to Turkey until they change their behavior in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.”

Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council said, “The West finally stood up to revisionist powers after Russia’s invasion to Ukraine. Turkey’s planned invasion of northern Syria threatens the very principles being fought for in Ukraine. It is time for the US and EU to prove that commitments to territorial sovereignty, human rights and the rule of law are not subject to double standards. All revisionist powers – whether Russia or Turkey – should be subject to international condemnation and sanction.”

Cliff Smith, the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project director added, “For too long, the US government turned a blind eye, and at times even enabled, Turkish aggression against the Kurds in Turkey and Syria and Iraq. Kurdish forces have been a key partner in our fight against ISIS and deserve American support. The US government should let Erdogan know there will be a price to pay for his aggression.”

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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