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Urgent Question on the Turkish incursion into northern Syria

15 October 2019

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Tobias Ellwood MP asked an urgent question to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab on the Turkish incursion into northern Syria.

Following on from the White House's announcement to remove United States forces from northern Syria, Turkey had begun an offensive on Wednesday 9 October, in an area controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Kurdish militia have been considered a key US ally in the fight against Daesh, but Turkey views them as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, who fought for Kurdish autonomy in the country. The Kurds are an ethnic group of about 30 million people spread across the Middle East who have been fighting for their own state for more than a century. Tobias Ellwood MP, asked the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab for a statement on the continuing Turkish incursion into northern Syria.

The Foreign Secretary told MPs:

"On the 9th October following the US announcement that it would withdraw troops from the region, Turkey launched military operation in north-east Syria. Turkish troops have pushed into northern Syrian towns and villages, clashing with the Kurdish fighters over a stretch of now a 125 miles. The UN estimates that at least 160,000 people have been displaced in less than a week.

"From the outset, the UK Government has warned Turkey against taking this military action, and as we feared it has seriously undermined the stability and the security of the region. It risks worsening the humanitarian crisis and increasing the suffering of millions of refugees, and it also undermines the international effort that should be focussed on defeating Daesh.

"The UK Government takes its arms exports control responsibilities very seriously, and in this case, of course we will keep our defence exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review. And I can tell the House that no further export licenses to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review."

Tobias Ellwood MP responded saying:

"In just a week we've seen the map of north-east Syria redrawn following the ill thought through foreign policy change by President Trump which has triggered a tragic series of events, now undermining international efforts to contain Daesh. It has forced a counter-Daesh ally, the SDF to resort to asking the Assad regime for help, giving Russia and Iran ever greater leverage in determining Syria's future, simultaneously diminishing and remaining influence the West can claim to have over the country's future. And in the fog of confusion thousands of hard lined jihadist fighters are now able to escape, re-group, to fight another day. And if Turkey's safe zone is allowed to go ahead, three million Sunni Arab refugees will soon be moved there, fundamentally changing the ethnic make-up of north-east Syria. And as so often in conflict, ten's of thousands of displaced civilians are attempting to flee the fighting, with many killed and injured."

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