Ambassador Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, on Wednesday argued that Turkey’s operations in northeast Syria were illegal, also accusing Ankara of cutting water supplies from Syria’s Alouk water station, the Kurdistan24 news website reported on Thursday.
“Water level in the Euphrates has diminished and operation of the Alouk water station has been frequently disrupted, making it difficult to sustain the supply of water and power and agricultural irrigation,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.
He was referring to a water station located near the border town of Ras al-Ayn, which Turkey and its militant proxies took control of during a 2019 offensive into northeastern Syria known as Operation Peace Spring.
“Since Turkey illegally invaded northeastern Syria, it has repeatedly cut off the water supply service from the Alouk water station, affecting hundreds of thousands of civilians, and causing enormous difficulties for the UN’s humanitarian relief work in the area,” Geng added.
The Chinese ambassador also urged Turkey to abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians, maintain infrastructure operations and guarantee humanitarian access for the UN.
“We will not learn from those who violate international human rights law and humanitarian law,” Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Turkey’s ambassador to the UN, said on Thursday, in response to Geng’s accusations.
The statements at the UN Security Council come a week after 43 countries, including Turkey, jointly called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
“We call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office. … We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the countries said, citing “credible” reports that “indicate the existence of a large network of ‘political reeducation’ camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained.”
Turkey has established direct control over swathes of land in northern Syria through successive offensives against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) since 2018. The YPG, a Syrian Kurdish armed group that played a crucial role in the coalition task force set up to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is viewed by Ankara as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus a terrorist organization.
Rights groups and organizations that monitor the region have since accused Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed rebels of committing war crimes against the local population during the cross-border offensives.
Turkey launched the Operation Peace Spring offensive on Oct. 9, 2019, targeting the YPG along the Turkish-Syrian border. The Turkish military operation began days after a surprise and widely criticized White House announcement that US forces would withdraw from the region.
“Turkish forces have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, including through summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians,” a report by Amnesty International compiling alleged war crimes committed during Operation Peace Spring said in October 2019.