ROME — Pope Francis called attention to the plight of Syria Sunday, as Turkey steps up its assault on Kurds in the northeast of the country.
“And my thoughts go once again to the Middle East,” Francis told the estimated 50,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his Angelus message. “In particular, they go to beloved and battered Syria from where once again dramatic news is arriving about the fate of the people of the north-east of the country, forced to leave their homes because of military actions.”
“Among these populations there are also many Christian families,” the pope continued. “To all involved and also to the international community, please, I renew the call to commit yourselves with sincerity, honesty and transparency on the path of dialogue to seek effective solutions.”
On Saturday, Ankara intensified its assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria despite threats of reprisals from Turkey’s NATO allies.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Sunday that the United States is preparing to move 1,000 troops from northeastern Syria to the south of the country, to avoid having American forces “caught between two opposing, advancing armies,” which he referred to as “a very untenable situation.”
Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators marched on the streets of Paris and other European cities this weekend to protest the Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria.
“Turkey is trying to carry out an ethnic cleansing and reinforce jihadism,” said Agit Polat, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Council in France, adding that Turkey aims “to make the West kneel.”
“Since the beginning of the Turkish army invasion operation dormant Daesh cells have committed attacks,” he said. “At all costs, there must be concrete economic sanctions from the European Union and the United States vis-à-vis Turkey.”