Syrian conflict
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Turkey launched the attack on Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria last week. Photo: Xinhua

China calls on Turkey to halt military incursion in Syria and ‘return to right track’

  • Beijing joins global condemnation of attack launched by Ankara on Kurdish fighters after US President Donald Trump decided to pull out troops
  • Foreign ministry spokesman says issue should be resolved with ‘political solutions’ and the operation may result in a revival of Islamic State

China has urged Turkey to stop the military offensive it began in northeastern Syria last week and “return to the right track”.

Beijing is the latest to join global condemnation of the cross-border attack launched by Ankara on Kurdish fighters last Wednesday following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from the region.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday called for a ceasefire.

“The Chinese side has always opposed the use of force in international relations and has advocated for adherence to the Charter of the United Nations, and to resolve problems through political and diplomatic channels,” Geng said during a regular press briefing, when asked about Beijing’s position on the situation.

“Sovereignty, independence, unification and territorial integrity should be respected and protected,” he said. “We urge Turkey to halt military action and to return to the right track, resolving the issue with political solutions.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called on Turkey to “work with the international community in fighting against terrorism”. Photo: AP

Geng also said the “anti-terrorism situation in Syria is still severe”, and the military operation could result in a comeback by Islamic State.

“We urge Turkey to take responsibility and work with the international community in fighting against terrorism,” he said.

Explained: why are Syria’s Kurds accusing the US of betrayal?

Trump’s move has drawn sharp criticism from around the world. Critics say he has abandoned the allies that helped fight against Isis, and that withdrawing troops could pave the way for a resurgence of the jihadist group whose violent takeover of Syrian and Iraqi land five years ago was the reason US forces went in.

The US president said about 1,000 US troops who had been partnering with local Kurdish fighters to battle Islamic State in northern Syria were leaving the country. He said they would remain in the Middle East to “monitor the situation” and to prevent a revival of Isis – a goal that even Trump’s allies say has become much more difficult as a result of the US pull-out.

Turkey says the offensive aims to remove the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from the border area and create what it calls a “safe zone” to relocate 1 million Syrian refugees.

Facing mounting criticism, Trump on Monday announced sanctions would be imposed on Turkey, halted bilateral trade negotiations and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Vice-President Mike Pence also said Trump was sending him to the Middle East because the president was concerned about instability in the region.

Beijing has long worried that conflict in the region could spill over to Chinese soil after thousands of Uygurs – the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from far western China – travelled to Syria to train and fight as jihadists.

Additional reporting by Associated Press