Western powers rejected a Russian bid at the United Nations to halt Turkey’s military actions in Syria, as France warned of a dangerous escalation in the nearly five-year conflict.
The emergency Security Council meeting came as US Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned there was “a lot more work to do” for a ceasefire to take hold in Syria, following talks in Geneva between American and Russian officials.
Meanwhile President Barack Obama, in a phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged the Ankara government and Kurdish YPG forces to “show reciprocal restraint” in northern Syria.
The elusive truce was meant to begin Friday, but failed to materialize as fighting raged in Syria with Kurdish-led forces backed by US-led air power seizing a key town from the Islamic State group.
Russia, which has been carrying out air strikes in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces, has urged the UN to press Turkey to halt its shelling of Kurdish forces in the country’s north.
Moscow presented a draft resolution that “strongly demands” an immediate end to cross-border shellings and plans — supported by Turkey — for foreign ground intervention in Syria.
But the text failed to garner support from key council members with at least six countries including veto-wielding France and the United States rejecting it outright during a closed-door meeting, diplomats said.
US Ambassador Samantha Power accused Moscow of trying to “distract the world” from its air campaign in support of the Syrian regime and urged it to abide by UN resolutions supporting a peace process.
“Russia must understand that its unconditional support to Bashar al-Assad is a dead-end and a dead-end that could be extremely dangerous,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre said.
“We are facing a dangerous military escalation that could easily get out of control and lead us to uncharted territory,” he said.
Turkey is pressing for a joint ground operation in Syria with its international allies, insisting it is the only way to stop the war.
Turkish Ambassador Yasar Halit Cevik said his country was facing “national security threats emanating from Syria” in reference to the Kurdish militias it is targeting in the country’s north.
Amid the surge in fighting, UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said a new round of peace talks scheduled for February 25 was unlikely.
In his call with Erdogan, Obama stressed that Kurdish YPG forces “should not seek to exploit circumstances in this area to seize additional territory, and urged Turkey to show reciprocal restraint by ceasing artillery strikes in the area,” a White House statement said.
Obama, in an apparent reference to Russia, also “urgently called for a halt to actions that heighten tensions with Turkey and with moderate opposition forces in northern Syria, and undermine our collective efforts in northern Syria to degrade and defeat ISIL.”
French President Francois Hollande said Ankara’s escalating involvement in the conflict was creating a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.
“Turkey is involved in Syria… There, there is a risk of war,” Hollande told France Inter radio.