Statement by Turkey at the Security Council Meeting on “the Situation in the Middle East”

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 28.02.2020
Mr. President,

I thank the Secretary-General for his statement and Undersecretary-General DiCarlo for her briefing. It has been only 24 hours since we discussed the situation in Syria here in this room.

Yet new and grave developments warranted for Security Council’s further attention today.

Yesterday, around the time this Council was in session, a Turkish military convoy was targeted by a series of airstrikes for a duration of five hours. This heinous attack took place in the vicinity of the Balyun village, located within Idlib de-escalation area.
The convoy was deployed to reinforce a Turkish observation post and some of the fortifications.

We lost 34 soldiers as a result of a series of airstrikes that took place yesterday afternoon targetting this convoy. And a significant number of Turkish Forces were wounded.

The radar tracks demonstrate that regime and Russian aircrafts were in formation flight during that time.

Let me underline here that the Turkish forces that were attacked were alone in that area. The logical conclusion of that is that they were deliberately targeted.
We also had prior coordination, in writing, with Russian forces about the location of our convoy. And air strikes continued despite our immediate warnings right after the very first attack.

Even the ambulances that were sent for wounded soldiers were targeted.

So, this was a belligerent act of aggression against Turkey.

As self-defence, Turkish forces have responded in kind.

Mr. President,
The Turkish contingent under attack yesterday was deployed in accordance with existing de-escalation arrangements in Idlib:

- to ensure the security of our military personnel serving at observations posts,

- to protect the civilians against the regime’s aggression,

- to ensure rapid and uninterrupted humanitarian access to those in need,

- to prevent mass displacement movements into Turkey and beyond,

- to preserve the de-escalation area status of Idlib,

- and to contribute to the establishment of a nationwide ceasefire as called for by this Council’s resolution 2254.

These were the parameters of the Sochi Memorandum of 17 September 2018. Our aim is to return to the status-quo ante established then.

We continue our dialogue with Russia on this basis. In fact another Russian delegation was in Ankara on the very day of the dastardly attack on the Turkish forces.

Today President Erdoğan spoke with President Putin.

We have made clear to the Russian side once again that we will not abandon our observations posts and we will continue our military reinforcements. We have a moral responsibility to protect the helpless, desperate children of Idlib.

Mr. President,

Some may interpret “de-escalation of violence” as if all the forces there are equally responsible for the escalation.

Following this logic would mean leaving the civilians defenseless and to the mercy of the regime. In this case, it is clear what almost 5 million people in this area would do. They will flee the country. But this is exactly what the murderous regime of Assad wants. There is no doubt that the regime and its backers aim at depopulating Idlib.

Mr. President,

Yesterday’s events are a stark reminder that regime is hell-bent on continuing its attacks to intimidate Syrian civilians, as well as destroy Syrian opposition and the prospects for a political solution.

Today, Turkish presence in Idlib is hope for the millions of civilians who are stuck in this area and the only bulwark against the regime’s crimes against humanity.

Turkish presence in Idlib is the only reason why millions of Syrians can still remain in their homeland without fear.

It needs to be clear to everyone that our soldiers sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of civilians in Idlib.

Turkish presence in Idlib is also the sole guarantee for the continuation of the humanitarian assistance.

These are exactly the reasons why the regime and its backers are targeting Turkish Armed Forces.

The regime and its backers want to drag Turkey into their dirty war because Turkish soldiers stand in the way of the regime from fulfilling its dream of a military solution.

But there is a miscalculation here.

The regime and its backers are used to killing innocent civilians and members of the opposition for years.

They should make no mistake: This time, they have targeted Turkish Armed Forces directly.

Some warlord in Damascus may not know the difference.

Some extremist mercenaries fighting along with the regime may not know the difference.

If they want to learn the hard way, they will.

Turkey does not want war.

But Turkey will not hesitate to use force if and when its security is threatened.

Any provocation and harassment will be retaliated by all means.

Mr. President,

Turkey has been displaying utmost restraint to avoid a direct military confrontation.

But this is a fight between right and wrong.

Turkey is undertaking these efforts on behalf of the international community, in order to protect millions of civilians, mostly women and children.

Most of you have been thanking us for our tireless efforts. What we want from you is not your gratitude only. We want you to share this responsibility. The fate of millions of civilians is our joint responsibility.

It is time for this Council to say enough is enough. The Council has to stop regime’s war crimes and its reckless behavior that pose a direct threat to international peace and security.

International community should not remain indifferent to the developments unfolding in Idlib. Otherwise, there will be repercussions on a much wider scale across Europe, in the region and beyond.

As to the previous speaker’s statement, I would like to emphasize that it is a disgrace that he is still sitting behind the Syria name plate, telling us shamelessly that millions of Syrians including the newly uprooted 560.000 children are terrorists. He is not a legitimate representative of Syrian people and is not worthy of my reply.

Thank you.

Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu Ambassador