MSPs write to US ambassador to demand reversal of 'deeply dishonourable' actions in Syria

Scottish Green MSPs with flag of Rojava, the autonomous region of north and east Syria.
Scottish Green MSPs with flag of Rojava, the autonomous region of north and east Syria.
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Thirty-three MSPs have jointly written to the US ambassador to express their alarm after Turkey launched an offensive in North East Syria, beginning with a bombardment of civilian areas.


The Scottish politicians have condemned the withdrawal of US troops from Syria as “deeply dishonourable” and called for the decision to be “reversed immediately”.

Turkish-backed forces from the Free Syrian Army look at a map during military manoeuvres in preparation for the Turkish incursion against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkish-backed forces from the Free Syrian Army look at a map during military manoeuvres in preparation for the Turkish incursion against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The letter came after the Turkish military action was condemned at First Minister's Questions by Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was "deeply concerned and strongly opposed" to the action, which followed an order by President Donald Trump to withdraw US forces from the region.

The First Minister said the president's actions were "reprehensible". She added: "Can I say very clearly and very strongly, that I and the Scottish Government are deeply concerned and strongly opposed to Turkey's unilateral military action in northern Syria.

"I'm also extremely concerned by Donald Trump's decision to withdraw support and leave Kurdish allies to the mercy of whatever Turkey chooses to do. I think that is particularly reprehensible given the sacrifices the Kurds have made in helping to defeat Isis."

Turkey’s commenced an invasion of north Syria on Wednesday with air strikes and artillery shelling on Kurdish fighters a precursor to ground troops crossing the border.

READ MORE: Turkey launches attacks on Syrian Kurds with wave of airstrikes

US troops had pulled back from the area, paving the way for Turkey's assault on Syrian Kurdish forces.

The MSPs' letter to US ambassador Robert Wood Johnson, co-ordinated by the Cross-Party Group on Kurdistan in the Scottish Parliament, has been signed by party leaders Patrick Harvie, Willie Rennie and Richard Leonard as well as the whole Scottish Greens group of MSPs.

It says: “We write to urgently express our concern at President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from North Eastern Syria, allowing for a Turkish invasion, which has now begun.

“In recent days the US-led Combined Joint Task Force – Inherent Resolve, compelled the SDF to demolish defensive fortifications along the Turkish-Syria border. This action was conducted on the understanding that it would address Turkish security concerns and that US efforts would continue to guarantee the safety of the people of North Eastern Syria from potential Turkish military action.

“To follow this with the immediate withdrawal of US forces and American consent for a Turkish invasion is nothing other than a gross act of betrayal and is deeply dishonourable.”

It adds: "We ask that you convey to your government our strong objections to this betrayal of our Kurdish allies. The decision should be reversed immediately and appropriate action taken against Turkey to prevent further loss of life and destabilisation in the region."

Turkey has long threatened to attack the Kurdish fighters whom it considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Expectations of an invasion increased after US President Donald Trump's abrupt decision on Sunday to essentially abandon the Syrian Kurdish fighters, leaving them vulnerable to a Turkish offensive.

READ MORE: Kurds accuse US of betrayal as Turkey prepares to invade Syria

The Kurds, who have been America's only allies in Syria fighting IS, on Thursday stopped all their operations against the IS extremists in order to focus on fighting advancing Turkish troops.

Today, Turkish troops reportedly bombarded a convoy of vehicles taking residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa to a border town, inflicting casualties. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the military action is needed to prevent the creation of a "terror state" along Turkey's border with Syria.

He has also warned the EU not to call the operation an "invasion", and renewed his threat to let Syrian refugees flood Europe.

The UN refugee agency has said tens of thousands of civilians in Syria are on the move to escape the fighting and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called on all sides to adhere to international humanitarian law, including providing access for aid agencies.

Mr Trump told journalists in the White House on Wednesday the Kurds were "fighting for their land". He said: "We have spent a tremendous amount of money helping the Kurds. They're fighting for their land. When you say they're fighting with the US, yes. But they're fighting for their land."

Today Ms Sturgeon also said she hoped there would be international support for the Kurdish people. "I hope there is a very strong response from the international community, both against the action that Turkey has taken - we've seen on previous occasions the consequences and implications for Kurds from Turkish action of this nature - but I also hope there is a strong international support for Kurds as well."

The politicians' letter adds: "Turkey’s 2018 invasion of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, North Western Syria in 2018 shows us precisely what President Erdogan has planned for the North East; ethnic cleansing, extensive bombing of civilian areas, the use of proxy forces including former ISIS fighters and other extremists and the destruction of any form of democratic governance. We cannot allow this to happen to the North East, which is currently home to over two million Syrians.

"The SDF currently hold tens of thousands of former ISIS fighters and activists in detention. The Turkish invasion represents a clear and significant risk of an ISIS resurgence, fuelled by the escape of many of those previously captured to join the cells still operating across the region. Former US officials familiar with the security situation in Northern Syria have explained this threat at length.

"We ask that you convey to your government our strong objections to this betrayal of our Kurdish allies. The decision should be reversed immediately and appropriate action taken against Turkey to prevent further loss of life and destabilisation in the region."

The SNP's Westminster Defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald added: “Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and attack on Kurdish forces – who have long been an ally in the fight against Daesh – must be condemned and must be challenged.

“Sales of military equipment to Turkey amount to around £800m in recent years. In 2017, the previous Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced a new £100m defence deal with President Erdogan during her trip to Turkey. This is to be regarded as an unacceptable stain on UK foreign policy and must be suspended, effective immediately.

"The UK government must follow the lead of other countries – such as fellow NATO member, Norway - and immediately suspend all arms sales and military licences to the government of Turkey."