ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Dutch government ministers said on Tuesday that they have no plans to send soldiers to Syria or to renew the deployment of Dutch F-16s, arguing there is no legal mandate.
In a Syria-focused letter written by Minister of Defense Ank Bijleveld, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok, and Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus, to the House of Representatives, the officials said there was no legal ground to deploy Dutch troops for “other purposes than fighting [the Islamic State] in defense of Iraq.”
In December, the Dutch Christian Union Party, a member of the Dutch government coalition, proposed a plan to send soldiers to Syria to join a “coalition of the willing” where they would help French and British troops in the war-embattled country and protect the Kurds against a possible Turkish attack.
At the time, Gert Jan-Segers, a politician from the Christian Union Party, said Europe should protect its allies, referring to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), following a surprise announcement by US President Donald Trump of a troop withdrawal.
However, according to the ministers’ letter, the Dutch army can only be deployed based on international law.
They also underlined that the aim of the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was only “the defeat of ISIS… and not a permanent presence of US or other Western troops to protect the vulnerable groups there.”
Nevertheless, Trump’s Dec. 19 decision to withdraw troops from Syria surprised the Dutch government.
“This is also due to the fact that the last ISIS-pocket in Eastern Syria (the so-called Hajin pocket) is not completely recaptured,” the ministers said in the letter, noting that the fight against the extremist group “is still not over.”
The US-backed SDF is currently fighting to regain the last pocket the Islamic State holds in Deir al-Zor. They have captured several foreign Islamic State fighters in the process that have attempted to flee or attack displaced civilians.
In the letter, the Dutch ministers reiterated their disappointment with Washington’s decision and highlighted that “the [ISIS] battle is not over.”
The US announcement came at a time when Turkey renewed its threats to attack the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria, which Ankara claims has close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Following insistence from the Dutch government, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, made a statement on Dec. 14 calling on Turkey not to take unilateral actions in Syria that endanger the fight against the Islamic State.
“The Netherlands continues to support this call and will repeat it where possible,” the government said in a separate statement.
The Dutch government also reminded that around two million people live in Syria’s northeast, including 500,000 displaced persons.
The government said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is working on possible scenarios for potential humanitarian crises.
On Jan. 21, the Dutch Parliament will discuss the situation in northeast Syria. Meanwhile, foreign and defense ministers among the US-led coalition are expected to discuss the situation in Syria in February.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany