Iran parliament speaker cancels Istanbul visit over Turkey's Syria offensive
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has cancelled his pre-planned trip to the Turkish city of Istanbul after Ankara announced the beginning of its military offensive against Kurds in northern Syria.
According to Press TV, Larijani was scheduled to visit Istanbul at the official invitation of his Turkish counterpart to attend a parliamentary meeting on Thursday.
However, the trip was called off after the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, the Iranian parliament's official news agency ICANA reported on Wednesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier in the day that his country’s military forces and the Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) have launched a long-threatened offensive in northeastern Syria against Kurdish militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from border areas.
“Operation Peace Spring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes," Erdogan wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Wednesday.
Syria's state-run television reported that the Turkish army launched the operation in the country's north by carrying out an airstrike on the city of Ras al-Ayn in the Northeastern Province of al-Hasakah.
Global condemnations pour in
The beginning of the incursion has so far drawn condemnation from several countries and international organizations.
US President Donald Trump, whose administration is under fire by its allies for stripping the Kurds of the US support, said he would devastate Turkey's economy if Ankara's incursion in Syria wipes out the Kurdish population there. "I will wipe out his [Erdogan's] economy if that happens."
"I've already done it once with Pastor Brunson," Trump said referring to US sanctions slapped on Turkey over the detention of an American. "I hope that he will act rationally," he said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had "serious concerns" over Turkish military operations. "This risks destabilizing the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus," he added.
France's foreign minister also condemned the assault on Syria's Kurdish-controlled areas, saying the offensive "must stop". "It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans' security," Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a tweet.
Egypt called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League over the offensive. “Egypt condemned in the strongest terms the Turkish aggression on Syrian territory,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement, adding the offensive “represents a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state.”
Hours before the beginning of the operation, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate concerns regarding security along its southern borders, but noted that such an offensive “would not benefit the region.”
“We believe that a suitable path has to be chosen regarding this matter,” Rouhani said, adding, “We urge our friend Turkey and its government to pay more attention to such matters and reconsider the decision that has been made."
Rouhani further stressed that the planned Turkish operation was problematic at a time when the region needed calm and Syrian refugees sought to resettle in the country.
"Today, our main problem does not lie in northern Syria and east of the Euphrates River, but the foremost problem lies in the Idlib region where all the terrorists have gathered," Rouhani added.