Procedure : 2019/2886(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0123/2019

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 23/10/2019 - 7
CRE 23/10/2019 - 7

Votes :

PV 24/10/2019 - 8.8
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


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<TitreSuite>to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>

<Titre>on the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria and its consequences</Titre>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Tineke Strik, Petra De Sutter, Katrin Langensiepen, Margrete Auken, Hannah Neumann, Markéta Gregorová, Gina Dowding, Alice Kuhnke, Bronis Ropė, Jutta Paulus, Mounir Satouri, Heidi Hautala, Michael Bloss, Anna Cavazzini, Caroline Roose, Ernest Urtasun, Salima Yenbou, Sergey Lagodinsky, Karima Delli, Viola Von Cramon‑Taubadel, Damien Carême, Gwendoline Delbos‑Corfield, François Alfonsi, Saskia Bricmont, Ciarán Cuffe, Yannick Jadot, Catherine Rowett, David Cormand</Depute>

<Commission>{Verts/ALE}on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group</Commission>

<Depute>Fabio Massimo Castaldo</Depute>


See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0123/2019


European Parliament resolution on the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria and its consequences


The European Parliament,

 having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria, in particular that of 15 March 2018[1],

 having regard to the Council conclusions on Syria, including those of 14 October 2019 on northeast Syria,

 having regard to the statements by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and in particular the statement of 9 October 2019 on recent developments in north-east Syria,

 having regard to the statements of 11 October and 15 October 2019 by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Syria,

 having regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols thereto,

 having regard to the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012,

 having regard to the UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, including resolution 2254 of 18 December 2015,

 having regard to the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and to the UNHRC resolutions on Syria,

 having regard to UN General Assembly Resolution 71/248 of 21 December 2016 establishing the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011,

 having regard to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC),

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the protracted conflict in Syria is one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history and continues to have devastating consequences for the Syrian people; whereas this conflict, supported and exacerbated by external actors, has had a profoundly destabilising impact on the wider region and beyond;

B. whereas on 6 October 2019 US President Trump informed Turkish President Erdogan that he would not oppose the latter’s announced plans to carry out a military offensive in the areas controlled by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria; whereas the US decision to withdraw its troops stationed in this area was announced shortly afterwards; whereas on 9 October 2019 Turkey launched a military operation with the support of Syrian Arab militias; whereas the Turkish authorities have persistently viewed with apprehension any claim to self-determination by the Kurdish people both within and beyond the Turkish border; whereas this has been translated into a continuous crackdown on the rights of freedom of expression and political participation in the South East of Turkey, and terrorism charges being widely used without any compelling evidence; whereas the SDF have played a vital role in the fight against Daesh/ISIS, and continue to play an important role in ensuring security in the area;

C. whereas dozens of civilians, mostly Kurds, have been killed since the beginning of the Turkish invasion and at least 300 000 persons have had to flee their homes; whereas 70 000 children have been displaced since the start of the military operation, and at least four children have been killed and nine others injured in northeast Syria, and seven children have reportedly been killed in Turkey, according to UNICEF; whereas 170 000 children could potentially need humanitarian assistance as a result of the attacks;

D. whereas Turkey’s President announced a plan to create a ‘buffer zone’ along the north of Syria, while indicating his intention to deport up to 3 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey to the ‘buffer zone’, which would amount to refoulement, given the unstable and dangerous situation in northeast Syria; whereas the forced displacement of the population constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and amounts to a crime against humanity; whereas the forced displacement of refugees to the buffer zone would also have the aim of changing the demographic structure of northeast Syria;

E. whereas the Kurdish-led forces in Syria reached an agreement with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime to defend them from Turkey’s military intervention; whereas the details of the agreement remain unclear; whereas the presence of Al-Assad’s forces in northern Syria heightens the risk of further regional escalation and military conflict;

F. whereas on 17 October 2019 the USA and Turkey reportedly agreed on a five-day ceasefire during which Kurdish forces are expected to withdraw from the area; whereas the state of implementation of the ceasefire remains unclear; whereas a meeting between Presidents Erdogan and Putin is foreseen for 22 October;

G. whereas since the start of the military intervention the Turkish authorities have mounted a severe crackdown on anyone criticising the military operation by using draconian Turkish anti-terrorism laws; whereas the Turkish authorities have launched investigations into more than 500 social media accounts, accusing them of spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’; whereas according to Turkey’s Minister of the Interior, 121 people have already been detained for their posts on social media questioning the operation; whereas more than 150 members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have been arrested since the start of the operation;

H. whereas according to the UN there are credible reports of summary executions, including of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, by Ahrar al-Sharqiya, a Turkish-affiliated armed group; whereas summary executions are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes for which Turkey may also be held responsible;

I. whereas attacks on medical facilities and civilian infrastructure, including power lines and water supplies, by Turkish forces and affiliated armed groups have been reported; whereas the Kurdish authorities in the al-Hassakeh and Ar-Raqqa Governorates have had to relocate hospital equipment that ceased to function due to the ongoing intensified bombardment;

J. whereas according to the SDF, 10 000 Daesh/ISIS fighters are currently being detained in Kurdish-controlled camps in northeast Syria; whereas according to the UNHRC, in July 2019 12 300 Daesh/ISIS-linked foreign nationals were detained in three camps in northeast Syria, including more than 8 000 children of over 40 different nationalities; whereas the current security situation poses the risk of a resurgence of Daesh/ISIS in the region; whereas the vast majority of the thousands of children from the EU or third countries with actual or perceived links to Daesh/ISIS were located in three different camps in northeast Syria, namely al Hol Camp, al-Roj Camp and Ain Issa Camp; whereas the Ain Issa Camp was taken over by the Turkish invasion forces and the fate of the women and children formerly detained in this camp remains unclear;

K. whereas some 500 000 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011; whereas 13.1 million people remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 6 million displaced people and more than 2.9 million people in besieged and inaccessible areas, including Palestinian refugees; whereas over 5 million Syrians have had to seek refuge abroad, notably in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey;

L. whereas the EU is the biggest humanitarian aid donor in Syria and its neighbours, with over EUR 9 billion committed since the start of the crisis;

M. whereas on 3 April 2017 the Council adopted an EU strategy for Syria, which outlines six key objectives: an end to the war through a genuine political transition; the promotion of a meaningful and inclusive transition; addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians; promoting democracy, human rights and freedom of speech by strengthening Syrian civil society organisations; promoting accountability for war crimes; and supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and society;

1. Firmly condemns the Turkish military offensive in northeast Syria and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the swift withdrawal of its troops;

2. Calls on all parties to the conflict, notably Turkey, to strictly abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to protect civilians, including by respecting the prohibition of direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including schools, and of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks; urges all parties to grant civilians safe passage and provide unfettered access to humanitarian assistance; urges all parties to protect children at all times;

3. Firmly rejects Turkey’s plans to establish a so-called safe zone along the border in northeast Syria; stresses that any forcible transfer of Syrian refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) to this area, and any acts with the aim of ethnic cleansing, would constitute a grave violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, international refugee law and humanitarian law, which may amount to a crime against humanity or genocide; recalls that any return of refugees must be safe, voluntary and dignified and that the current circumstances are such as to categorically prevent such movements; insists that no EU stabilisation or development assistance be delivered to such areas;

4. Expresses its full solidarity with the Kurdish people and lauds the critical contribution of the SDF to quelling the scourge of Daesh/ISIS; urges the EU and the Member States to use all their diplomatic leverage to ensure that the interests and the historic claims of self-determination of the Kurds, as well as the human rights of the people living in the region, are acknowledged and secured in any future political arrangement for tomorrow’s Syria; calls on the EU to step up its humanitarian assistance to the populations affected by the most recent military hostilities in northeast Syria;

5. Deplores the EU’s persistent powerlessness in the face of international crises, including in its immediate neighbourhood, and which has direct consequences for the EU’s internal security and stability; expects the incoming VP/HR to seize the opportunity provided by the erratic US withdrawal in order to shift from the role of a passive bystander in the Syrian conflict to that of a proactive diplomatic actor that engages with all regional and local actors; urges the Member States to be guided by their common interest in seeking credible, coordinated and effective EU engagement; calls for EU to launch a series of mediation and dialogue measures, in particular as regards inter-community tensions;

6. Underscores that the unilateral Turkish intervention constitutes a grave breach of international law, which should not go unpunished; pending Turkish corrective action, calls for a profound revisiting of EU-Turkey relations; believes that under the current circumstances no preparatory work or steps forward to modernise the EU-Turkey Customs Union can take place; calls on the Commission and the Member States to explore the possibility of suspending the 1995 EU-Turkey Customs Union agreement; calls also for a revisiting of the programmes of European financial institutions (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank) in the country, and considers it necessary to reflect on the appropriateness of Turkey’s continued participation in certain regional organisations;

7. Calls for the EU to adopt targeted measures, including asset freezes and visa bans, against the Turkish officials responsible for the military invasion and the ensuing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law; recalls, in this context, its insistence on the swift adoption of an EU-level targeted sanctions regime for breaches of human rights;

8. Welcomes the declared intention of several Member States to stop issuing licences for arms transfers to Turkey, but urges them to ensure that the suspension also applies to transfers that have already been licenced, notably by France, Germany, the UK and Finland; believes that the Council conclusions of 14 October 2019 are inadequate in relation to EU arms export policy to Turkey, and calls for the EU and the Member States to immediately adopt a fully fledged embargo and suspend all arms transfers, as well as any kind of security and military assistance and services, to Turkey and other parties to the conflict in Syria;

9. Is appalled by the weak reaction of NATO’s Secretary General with regard to Turkey’s unilateral intervention; believes that NATO members should adopt a strong stance and consider suspending Turkey’s voting rights in the organisation;

10. Stresses the need to ensure accountability for all the violations of international humanitarian law, including the most recent war crimes committed in the course of the Turkish invasion; urges the EU and its Member States to support the process of documenting these violations and to insist that they be investigated in a thorough and impartial manner, and that the perpetrators be prosecuted; calls on the members of the UN Security Council to further look into this matter and to consider referring the situation to the ICC;

11. Calls on Turkey to ensure accountability for violations committed by its proxy militias; reminds the Turkish authorities that they will be held responsible for any violations committed by their forces or proxy militias, including the murder of Hevrin Khalaf and other summary killings;

12. Expresses its gravest concern with regard to the heightened risk of the dispersion of Daesh/ISIS fighters and the resurgence of the jihadist threat as a consequence of the Turkish incursion; urges the Member States to repatriate all their nationals who are currently being detained on suspicion of being Daesh/ISIS fighters, as well as their family members and children, and to provide the necessary rehabilitation, reintegration, and, if appropriate, proceed with prosecution in line with international standards;

13. Calls on the Member States to liaise with the authorities in charge of these camps and work out coordinated policies to actively identify children of EU origin of Daesh/ISIS fighters or other allegedly terrorist groups, who are in northeast Syria, and repatriate them given the escalated violence; deplores the lack of action hitherto of EU Member States and the absence of coordination at EU level; urges the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to play a proactive role in this process;

14. Urges all the actors involved to ensure that all children have access to humanitarian aid, services and assistance within the camps, including al-Hol Camp; calls, therefore, on all parties and the Government of Syria to grant humanitarian actors immediate access to the camps to ensure the delivery of essential goods, food, clean water and medicines;

15. Firmly condemns the ongoing crackdown by Turkish authorities in the country on anyone criticising or questioning the military operation, including the arrest of more than 150 HDP members and the investigations into more than 500 social media accounts accused of spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’; further condemns the crackdown on media freedom and the harassment that journalists reporting on the military operation are being subjected to; urges Turkey to drop all charges against those detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression; expects the EU to monitor and to publicly condemn the ongoing crackdown in Turkey on freedom of expression and criticism of the military operation;

16. Calls on all Russian-led diplomatic initiatives not to undermine UN efforts to reach a political solution; reaffirms, in this context, the continued primacy of the UN-led Geneva process and supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, to ensure a genuine political transition in line with UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions; urges the EU and its Member States to advocate a stronger role for the UN in the process leading towards achieving peace and stability in Syria; reiterates the importance of women being part of the conflict resolution process in line with UNSC resolution 1325; insists also on the importance of including Syrian civil society and all ethnic and religious minorities in the talks on Syria’s future and its governance structure;

17. Welcomes the recent setting up of a constitutional committee thanks to the mediation of the UN and other actors; urges all parties to continue to engage in earnest in moving towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict; recalls that there can be no sustainable military solution to the conflict and calls on all parties thereto to comply in full with UNSC resolutions requiring the immediate cessation of hostilities, the lifting of all sieges, full and unhindered country-wide humanitarian access, and the protection of humanitarian aid workers by all parties;

18. Remains distressed by the disappearance of human rights defender and Sakharov Prize laureate Razan Zaitouneh who was reportedly kidnapped in Douma in December 2013 by the armed group Jaysh al-Islam and remains unaccounted for; calls for an EU task force to be established in order to coordinate and enhance efforts to determine her whereabouts and secure her release;

19. Welcomes the EU’s commitment to ongoing humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbours, notably Turkey, which continue to host millions of refugees; calls, however, on the Member States to show much stronger commitment to responsibility-sharing, so as to enable refugees fleeing the Syrian war zones to find protection beyond the immediate neighbouring region, by strengthening the EU resettlement scheme, putting in place humanitarian admission schemes, and by introducing simplified family reunification and more flexible visa regulations; insists that the funding provided within the framework of the EU-Turkey statement should be restricted to serving the interests and needs of the refugees;

20. Calls for the EU and its Member States to show strict respect for the principle of non-refoulement, to refrain from returns of Syrian refugees to Turkey as long as they risk deportation to northeast Syria and to speak out publicly against the ongoing forced return of Syrians currently located in Syria’s neighbouring countries;

21. Strongly deplores the impunity that continues to be enjoyed by the perpetrators of serious crimes during the Syrian conflict, notably the Assad regime; considers that the lack of accountability provides a breeding ground for further atrocities and compounds the suffering of the victims; insists, therefore, on the need to hold all perpetrators to account, including through the application of universal jurisdiction, and to provide reparation to victims; reminds, furthermore, Member States of their obligation under international law to ensure the arrest and detention of those suspected of having committed crimes involving atrocities present on their territory;

22. Recalls that any measures taken to combat Daesh and other UNSC-recognised terrorist groups must be in strict compliance with international law; reminds Member States and their allies of the need to ensure transparency, accountability and full compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in their participation in international coalition efforts and their military cooperation with parties in the conflict;

23. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, and the parties involved in the conflict in Syria.

[1] OJ C 162, 10.5.2019, p. 119.

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