Kurds in Syria

27 November, 2019

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. I. Pnevmatikos:

That this council—

1. Condemns the military operation Peace Spring launched on 9 October 2019 by the President of Turkey, President Erdogan, and the Turkish military against the Kurdish people and calls on them to immediately cease their invasion and all military operations in Syria targeting the Kurdish population;

2. Notes the sacrifice of the Kurdish people in assisting Australia and its allies to defeat ISIS and calls on the international community to immediately send humanitarian assistance to the Kurdish population targeted by the Turkish military and their allies; and

3. Expresses its deepest sympathies to the South Australian Kurdish community on the senseless loss of innocent lives at the hands of the Turkish military.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (21:16): I rise on behalf of the government to thank the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos MLC for moving this motion. Australia, as a multicultural country, has welcomed more than 10,000 people with Kurdish ancestry. I would like to begin by expressing our deepest sympathies to the South Australian and Australian Kurdish community, who have been impacted by the tragic loss of innocent lives in the recent military operation.

The situation unfolding in Syria is an action that will have grave consequences not only for security in the region but also in terms of civilian suffering and the lack of humanitarian access. An article in the AustralianFinancial Review of 10 October 2019 states that the Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison, has joined other world leaders to condemn Turkey's invasion of north-eastern Syria following the US troops withdrawal, flagging that Australia will add its voice to an international response that could include some form of economic sanctions.

Honourable members would appreciate that it is a very complex situation and the commonwealth federal government is better placed to address the concerns and that the Australian government has come forth with various statements about Operation Peace Spring and have outlined their concerns and measures in assisting those caught up in the middle of this horrific situation.

The Australian government expressed in a media statement that Australia is deeply troubled by Turkey’s unilateral military operation into north-eastern Syria. Actions of this nature will have grave consequences for regional security and could significantly undermine the gains made by the international coalition in its fight against Da’esh, which remains a serious threat to regional peace and security despite its territorial defeat.

It will cause additional civilian suffering, lead to greater population displacement and further jeopardise humanitarian access. While Turkey has legitimate domestic security concerns, unilateral cross-border military action will not solve these concerns. In a statement issued by the Prime Minister, the Australian government has expressed this view directly to the Turkish government.

The federal government remains in close contact with our US, European, Middle East and other allies and security partners, including through our embassies and other officials. The Australian Prime Minister, together with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Women, has issued a joint statement with regard to this complex situation. They urge restraint and call for all parties to the conflict in Syria to avoid escalatory or opportunistic actions that cause further instability and humanitarian suffering.

The Australian government notes that the Syrian Democratic Forces have been steadfast partners for the international coalition in the fight against Da’esh and have borne a significant share of the sacrifice. They have also helped the international community by providing security support at internally displaced persons camps. The full implication of the Turkish military operation on these camps and the people residing in them is difficult to assess at this early stage and will depend in part on subsequent actions taken by Turkey and the Kurds.

We offer our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this horrific situation. We hope the international community will provide the necessary humanitarian assistance and we call on all parties in the conflict to come up with urgent and peaceful resolutions.