UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Syria's foreign minister accused Turkey on Saturday of being “one of the main sponsors of terror” in his country and the region, and said it is guilty of “a war crime and a crime against humanity" for cutting water to more than a dozen towns that resisted Turkish occupation.
In unusually harsh language, Walid al-Moallem said “the Turkish regime reigns supreme" when it comes “to sponsors and financiers of terrorism."
He said in a prerecorded speech to the first-ever high-level meeting of the U.N. General Assembly held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic that the cutoff of water supplies endangered civilian lives, especially during the coronavirus crisis.
The nine-year Syrian conflict, which initially began as a civil war, later became a regional proxy fight. Turkey, which now controls a zone in northern Syria, has backed opposition fighters against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Syrian Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State extremist group.
Al-Moallem also accused Turkey of moving “terrorists and mercenaries — referred to by some as `moderate opposition' -- from Syria to Libya," violating Iraq's sovereignty, using refugees “as bargaining chips against Europe” and laying claim “by force to energy resources in the Mediterranean.”
“The current Turkish regime has become a rogue and outlaw regime under international law,” the Syrian minister said. “Its policies and actions, which threaten the security and stability of the whole region, must be stopped.”
Turkey's U.N. Mission said it “rejects Syrian regime's delusional statement, ridden with ludicrous allegations, in its entirety.”
“It 's shameful and unacceptable that the murderous Syrian regime which lost its legitimacy long ago continues to misuse (the) U.N. General Assembly general debate to distort the facts,” said a mission spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The Syrian regime is responsible for death, mutilation, abduction, starvation and enforced disappearance of millions of Syrians," the spokesperson said. “Its crimes against humanity, violations of international humanitarian law and the war crimes have been documented in countless U.N. reports.”
Al-Moallem declared that the Syrian government “will spare no effort to end the occupation by all means possible under international law” of American and Turkish forces.
U.S. troops are deployed in the country to fight the Islamic State group.
“The actions of these forces, taken directly or through their terrorist agents, secessionist militias, or manufactured and illegitimate entities, are null and void, with no legal effect,” he said.
Al-Moallem, who is also deputy prime minister, denounced U.S. sanctions, saying they are blocking the delivery of life-saving medicine and equipment during the pandemic.
He called the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act” passed by the U.S. Congress an “inhumane attempt to suffocate Syrians, just like George Floyd and others were cruelly suffocated in the United States, and just like Israel suffocates Palestinians on a daily basis.”
Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died May 25 after a white officer used his knee on Floyd's neck to pin him to the ground. The officer has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Al-Moallem called on all countries affected by unilateral sanctions “and those that reject such measures to close ranks against them and alleviate their impact on our peoples ... through cooperation, coordination, and concrete political, economic and commercial means.”
On the political front, he said Syria's government hopes a committee given the responsibility of drafting a new constitution for the country “will succeed.” But, he said, this will be possible only “if there is no external interference whatsoever in its work and by any party.”