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Conflict and peace Geneva voices concerns over Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurds

Kurdish demonstrators protest outside the UN headquarters in Geneva on January 24.

Kurdish demonstrators protest against the Turkish military operation in northern Syria outside the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on January 24.

(Keystone)

The city of Geneva has urged Turkey to end its cross-border operation against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. On Wednesday, hundreds of Kurds protested at the symbolic Place des Nations square in the Swiss city. 

In a statement released on Wednesdayexternal link, the city of Geneva authorities said they were concerned by Turkey’s “non-respect of basic Geneva Convention principles” since its aerial bombing operation – now in its fifth day – particularly against the Rubar refugee camp, which is home to 20,000 people. 

The Swiss foreign affairs ministry has not reacted to the events in Syria. The city of Geneva, however, reminded that the Geneva Conventions require Turkey to protect civilians, and to guarantee access to the wounded and to humanitarian aid. 

Turkey has been carrying out an air and ground operation in the Afrin region targeting US-backed Kurdish YPG fighters, which Ankara sees as allies of Kurdish insurgents who have fought in south-eastern Turkey for decades. 

Speaking with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan by telephone on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump reportedly urged Turkey to curtail its military operation in Syria, and warned it not to bring US and Turkish forces into conflict. However, a Turkish source said a White House readout did not accurately reflect the conversation. 

Meanwhile, Erdogan has vowed to extend the military operation to Manbij, a separate Kurdish-held enclave 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, possibly putting US forces supporting the Kurds against the Islamic State group at risk. 

Protest and Syria peace talks 

On Wednesday, some 350 Kurds demonstrated outside the UN headquarters in Geneva against Erdogan and the military operation in northern Syria. 

Swiss parliamentarian Carlo Sommaruga told protestors (see clip below) that he and other Swiss politicians planned to contact the authorities in Bern to call on Ankara to end its military operation against the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

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Kurdish demonstration outside UN in Geneva

The developments came as Syrian government and opposition officials gathered in Vienna on Thursday for a two-day ‘last hope’ meeting to address issues surrounding a new constitution. 

Previous attempts at UN-sponsored peace-making have failed as Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran have retaken large parts of the country from rebels since 2015. 

ATS-SDA/sb

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