United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “very much alarmed” by reports of clashes between Turkish and Syrian troops in northwest Syria seen as a “threat to regional and international peace and security”, according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday.
Guterres called for an immediate end to hostilities, the spokesman.
Dujarric was asked at a regular briefing about a direct confrontation in northwest Syria between the forces in which eight Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed and an unspecified number of Syrian troops wounded.
“We’re very much alarmed by the reports that we saw of clashes between Syrian government troops and Turkish forces in northwest Syria,” Dujarric said.
“This escalation underscores once again the threat to regional and international peace and security caused by the ongoing conflict in Syria”.
A five-day ceasefire that reached in negotiations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence, was largely holding along Turkey’s border with Syria on Saturday, despite accusations of violations from Turkish-allied forces and Kurdish fighters.
“We also remain deeply concerned by the continuing reports of civilian casualties and the large-scale displacement of civilians, resulting from the current Syrian government offensive inside the Idlib de-escalation zone,” the spokesman added. “The secretary-general affirms yet again that no attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure should take place.”
As to what the world organization is doing over clashes between the two neighbours, he said diplomatic contacts are being held at various levels to pass on the message publicly and privately for the need to de-escalate.
Dujarric said the UN is alarmed about the safety of more than 3 million civilians in Idlib and the surrounding areas, over half of whom are internally displaced, following reports of airstrikes and shelling.
Between January 31 and February 2, there were at least 25 communities reportedly affected by artillery shelling, while 47 communities were reportedly impacted by airstrikes, he said.
According to the deal, Turkey agreed to give Kurdish forces 120 hours to pull back from the Turkey-Syria border to allow Ankara to form a so-called “safe zone”. The agreement has not specified the area of its pullback, Aljazeera reported.
One Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded after an attack by the YPG group in northeast Syria’s Tal Abyad, the defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The ministry said the attack with anti-tank and light weapons struck Turkish soldiers carrying out a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Tal Abyad.
Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on October 9, aiming to clear the region of YPG fighters.
Earlier, US President Donald Trump had sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Erdogan, after which Trump warned Erdogan on Syria offensive and called him “Don’t be a fool”.
“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will”, Trump added.
Last year, in October, Trump had announced that he will authorise sanctions against Turkish officials, raise steel tariffs and end negotiations on a USD 100 billion trade deal.
(With inputs from agency)