Budapest, Hungary – The Hungarian government seems to have de-facto backed Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, breaking ranks with the official EU position.
Hungary backs Turkey’s plan to resettle refugees in Syria
On Tuesday, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó appears to have implicitly endorsed Turkey’s military incursion into norther Syria, saying that Budapest approved of Ankara’s plan to move refugees into the ‘safe-zone’ it wants to create and stressing that, for Hungary, the main goal is to stop migration.
“If the question for us Hungarians is put like this, ‘what would we like, if Turkey would resettle the migrants in Syria, or would open the doors in Europe’s direction?’, then our answer is clear”, Péter Szijjártó said during a visit in Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Turkic Council.
On Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister also held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who’s scheduled to visit Budapest next month. According to a government statement, the Turkish president “expressed his gratitude to the fact that Hungary stands up for Turkey on the international scene”.
Last week, Szijjártó had already said that “we need a constructive dialogue with Turkey to avoid a situation when an additional migratory flow arrives to Europe”. His comments were made shortly after Erdoğan threatened to flood Europe with refugees if the EU went too far in condemning Turkey’s Syrian incursion.
The veto from Hungarian diplomats had already allegedly delayed the EU’s ability to issue a joint statement on Ankara’s military operation.
EU condemns Turkey’s ‘Operation Peace Spring’
Hungary’s stance broke ranks with the official EU position, which condemned Ankara’s operation in Syria. “The EU calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action”, EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement, accusing the operation of “undermining the security of the coalition’s local partners” and of “providing fertile ground for the resurgence of [ISIS]”.
Last week, Turkey launched a military operation, code-named ‘Operation Peace Spring’, along with allied Syrian rebels into northern Syria against members of a Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), with the aim of creating a safe-zone next to its border and resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
Humanitarian crisis and risk of ethnic cleansing
Turkey’s attack against Kurdish forces came days after President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the region, giving his implicit green-light to Ankara’s operation against the Kurds, key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS.
The operation has created an unprecedented chaos in the war-torn region, sending over 130,000 people fleeing on the roads, according to the U.N., and opening the doors of formerly Kurdish-held prisons to ISIS fighters. Observers have warned that the operation could lead to one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years and underlined the looming danger of an ethnic cleansing in the region.
Described by analysts as one of Trump’s biggest foreign policy blunder to date, the U.S. President’s move was condemned in a rare bipartisan rebuke by the House of Representatives. It has also prompted a significant shifting of alliances in the region, with Kurdish troops forced to seek the help of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and its main backer, Russia, to stop the Turkish incursion.