How would the UN Security Council resolution affect Turkey?
Resolution 2401 adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 24 that called for a 30-day ceasefire has failed to bring tranquility to Syria and it seems unlikely that the resolution can achieve this goal.
Eastern Ghouta, northeast of Damascus, where 400 civilians have been killed in the past week, has turned into what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as “hell on earth.” What are the hurdles there?
The main hurdle is the contradictions in the resolution itself. The resolution calls on “all parties immediately to halt hostilities.” The very same resolution stipulates that the cessation of hostilities would not apply to military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al Qaeda, and (the latter’s extension in Syria) Al-Nusra Front.
The resolution went on to say that “the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against all individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL.”
This is a very broad definition. In an environment of chaos created by the civil war, it is very difficult to know which groups are affiliated with those organizations and which are not. Moreover, militants can easily shift sides between numerous jihadist groups on the ground. This allows Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime, supported by Russia, to continue carrying out military operations against opposition groups.
Hence, on Feb. 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Feb. 26, encouraged by the resolution, pointed to Al-Nusra-affiliated groups in Eastern Ghoura and said “thus, Al-Nusra’s partners were not protected by the ceasefire.”
As far as Turkey is concerned, remarks made by government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ on Feb. 25 suggested that “Operation Olive Branch” will continue since the U.N. resolution allows military operations against terror groups.
I need to underline the following comments Bozdağ made: “The U.N. resolution does not cover terror groups. Therefore this resolution will not affect Turkey’s ongoing operation. Because we are not only fighting against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], Kurdistan Communities Union [KCK], Democratic Union Party [PYD] and People’s Protection Units [YPG]. We are at the same time fighting against DAESH [the Arabic acronym of ISIL]. There are no problems regarding humanitarian aid there. Therefore this resolution will not affect our operation.”
It is important to note that Bozdağ justifies “Operation Olive Branch” by saying that the military operation also targets DAESH. Because, the U.N. resolution does not refer to the PKK and its offshoots as terrorist organizations but it clearly calls DAESH a “terrorist” group.
It is also significant that Bozdağ said humanitarian aid efforts had not been affected in Afrin. We can understand why Bozdağ specifically needed to underline this if we take a look at the U.N. resolution. Indeed, there is no single reference to Afrin in the U.N. Security Council resolution. It only mentions the regions of Eastern Ghouta, Idlib, Hama, Rukhban and Raqqa.
Yes, if we take a closer look at the document it emerges that the resolution gives the U.N. the right to designate areas where the humanitarian aid corridors, including delivery of medical supplies, could be established across Syria.
The resolution also demands that “all parties would allow safe unimpeded and sustained access for the humanitarian convoys of the United Nations to all requested areas and populations.”
This means that the resolution has given the U.N. the authority to identify any place inside Syria to “open humanitarian aid corridors.” Remarks made by Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock points to an interesting situation. After welcoming the U.N. Security Council’s resolution, Lowcock said that they were planning to dispatch aid convoys to Eastern Ghouta and Rukban, and he also added Afrin to the list. And Lowcock “called on all parties to make that possible.”
In light of this statement by Lowcock, there is the possibility that the U.N. may seek Turkey’s cooperation to send humanitarian aid convoys to Afrin.