CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Saturday led Arab foreign ministers in lambasting Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria as an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty”.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, president of the current Arab League session, also condemned Turkey’s offensive into Syria during an emergency meeting of the body, called by Egypt.
Reading from the meeting’s final communique, Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League will consider taking measures against Turkey in the economic, investment and cultural sectors, and include tourism and military cooperation.
He also called on the U.N. Security Council to “take the necessary measures to stop the Turkish aggression and (for) the withdrawal from Syrian territory immediately”.
Turkey dismissed the Arab League statement, saying it misrepresented its military operations.
Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for the Turkish presidency, also said governments that disliked Turkey’s stance on Middle East issues including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and war in Yemen “do not speak for the Arab world”.
Arab foreign ministers had earlier lined up to condemn Turkey. The offensive “will exacerbate humanitarian crises, increase the suffering of the Syrian people, and strengthen the ability of terrorists to reorganize their remnants,” Alhakim said.
Alhakim and Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on the League to reinstate Syria’s membership in the body.
On Tuesday, Turkey began an air and ground offensive into northeastern Syria against Kurdish militia, opening a new front in the eight-year-old Syrian civil war that has raised the prospect of a new humanitarian disaster.
Turkey had been poised to enter northeast Syria since President Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops, who have been fighting with Kurdish-led forces against Islamic State, to pull out.
The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also condemned the Turkish offensive.
“We call for the exit of Turkey and its forces, as well as all foreign forces that have violated this Arab country - and to push for a successful political solution,” Gargash said.
Qatar, which is considered a Turkish ally, did not block the communique, but voiced reservations.
“Qatar and Somalia have reservations about the Arab League’s decision today,” Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki told Reuters.
“The Qatari reservation puts Qatar in one trench with the aggressor, and I have no further comment,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Reuters TV.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy, Nadeen Ebrahim and Momen Saeed Atallah in Cairo and Dominic Evans in Istanbul; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by James Drummond