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Turkey sends letter to UN, says Syria operation 'measured and responsible'

UN Security Council will hold emergency meeting behind closed doors to discuss Turkish operation
Arab League will meet on Saturday to discuss Turkish offensive in Syria at request of Egypt (Reuters)

Turkey's operation in northern Syria will be "proportionate, measured and responsible", the country said in a letter to the United Nations Security Council.

The letter was sent to the Security Council late on Wednesday, after numerous countries condemned Turkey's offensive, which it says is designed to prevent the creation of a "terror corridor" and "neutralise a long-standing threat against Turkish citizens".

It comes ahead of a planned Security Council meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in the northeastern region of Syria.

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"As has been the case in its previous counter-terrorism operations, Turkey's response will be proportionate, measured and responsible," Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey's ambassador to the UN, said in the letter.

"The operation will only target terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons vehicles and equipment," he added. "All precautions are taken to avoid collateral damage to the civilian population."

Turkish air strikes and artillery pounded areas along the Syrian-Turkish border on Wednesday, and Ankara announced the start of a ground offensive east of the Euphrates River.

A Turkish air strike on Wednesday hit a prison holding detained Islamic State (IS) group militants, Reuters reported.

The air strikes have killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF and wounded dozens of civilians, the group said, while Turkish forces say they have struck 181 militant targets since the beginning of the operation.

Nations convene

On Thursday, the 15-member body of the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting behind closed doors to discuss the Turkish operation, at the request of Britain, France and Germany.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure and "believes that there's no military solution to the Syrian conflict".

"Any military operation must fully respect the UN Charter and international humanitarian law," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in a news conference.

In addition to the UN, the Arab League will meet on Saturday at the request of Egypt to discuss the Turkish offensive in Syria.

Cairo's foreign ministry said Turkey's advance constitutes "a blatant and unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of a brotherly Arab state".