UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS
By Aydogan Kalabalik
CAIRO (AA) – Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on Saturday to discuss recent developments in war-torn Syria.
The meeting comes a few days after Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Addressing the meeting, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil underlined the importance of returning Syria to the Cairo-based Arab League.
The Arab League has condemned Turkey’s operation east of the Euphrates river, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim told reporters at a news conference.
Alhakim did not give the exact number of the participant countries present at the meeting. He said Somalia and Qatar made reservation on the final declaration.
Stating that economic, touristic and military ties with Turkey will be reevaluated, he said reducing the diplomatic representation with Turkey was also discussed during the meeting.
Syria's membership in the league has been suspended since 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime launched a harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests, sparking eight years of civil war.
Saturday’s meeting saw speeches by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who called for halting the Turkish operation and reaching a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorists there and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to eliminate terrorist elements of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG, from east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar