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Arab League urges Turkey to immediately withdraw troops from Syria

Turkish-backed militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army and Turkish soldiers watch as smoke billows from the border town of Ra's al-Ayn on October 12, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. (Photo by AFP)

The secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has called on Turkey to immediately put an end to its military operation in northeastern Syria and pull of its troops out of the war-torn Arab country.

“We condemn this aggression. We call upon Turkey to immediately and completely stop all military action and withdraw troops, which have entered the Syrian territory,” Aboul Gheit said during the opening address to an emergency meeting of the 22-member regional organization in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo on Saturday.

He then warned that Ankara would bear full responsibility for the “possible humanitarian consequences of the aggression.”

The Arab League chief also expressed serious concerns over “real genocide of Kurds” in northern Syria, stating that approximately 300,000 people run the risk of displacement within the next few days because of Turkey's military action.

Lebanon FM wants Syria back in Arab League

Meanwhile, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has called on the Arab League to restore Syria’s membership amid Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

Speaking at the Arab League meeting, the top Lebanese diplomat said readmitting Syria into the pan-Arab organization should be “the first response from the League to the Turkish aggression.”

“We can no longer allow any Israeli or Turkish aggression or (aggression) from any party against an Arab state or an Arab people,” Bassil commented.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011, citing alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria denounced the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said on February 3 that his country will eventually return to the Arab League, stressing that the Damascus government will never surrender to blackmail or accept conditions for the restoration of its membership to the organization.

“Those who are trying to ignore Syria or to impose conditions for its return to the Arab League will not succeed, since Syria will not surrender to blackmail and is not primarily concerned with anything other than its domestic problems,” Mekdad said.

He added that certain anti-Syria decisions are being made by some Arab states on the orders of extra-regional powers.

Some Arab countries have moved to normalize ties with Syria. The United Arab Emirates announced the re-opening its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, and Bahrain said shortly after that its embassy there and the Syrian diplomatic mission in Manama had been operating “without interruption.”

Syrian Kurds deny Turkey has taken Ra's al-Ayn border town

Separately, Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria have denied the assertion by Turkey’s Defense Ministry that Turkish troops and allied militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army had wrested control over the battleground border town of Ra's al-Ayn in Syria’s northeastern province of al-Hasakah.

“Ras al-Ayn is still resisting and clashes are ongoing,” an unnamed official of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which is an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants, said on Saturday.

“Ra's al-Ayn is still resisting and clashes are ongoing,” an unnamed official of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which is an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants, said on Saturday.

An AFP correspondent in the area said Turkish troops and their allies had entered the town, but had yet to capture it.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that Ra's al-Ayn had yet to be overrun.

Earlier in the day, a senior Turkish security official said that Turkish-backed FSA militants had seized control of R’as al-Ayn's center in northeast Syria on Saturday as Turkey's offensive against a Kurdish militia in the region entered its fourth day.

The official said FSA militants “took control of the town center this morning. Inspections are being conducted in residential areas.”

Turkey neutralizes 415 terrorists in northern Syria

Furthermore, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the number of Kurdish militants from the so-called People's Protection Units (YPG) neutralized in Turkey's operation in northern Syria has risen to 415.

Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

On Wednesday, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed FSA militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the SDF.

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