Turkey’s new position on Syria

Aug 28,2016 – JORDAN TIMES – Amer Al Sabaileh

The regional dynamics are creating a new reality in the Syrian crisis, while the military coup in Turkey has created the opportunity for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reposition himself and his administration, to take a systematic approach and change previous policies, and use a new style of politics to solidify his position.

Since May 2016, when prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu lost his post, the Turkish government has been changing its policy in order to break the isolation from other countries, imposed by previous policies.

Restoring relations with Russia was one of the major priorities. The Turkish president’s recent visit to St. Petersburg was a practical step in this direction. 

In Russia, where he met President Vladimir Putin, discussions included Turkey’s new position on the Syrian crisis.

For the last 12 months before this meeting, tensions between Turkey and Russia were running high due to clashing involvement in Syria.

The logic behind Turkey’s move is that it wants to prevent any possible future for an independent Kurdish state.

Turkey has allies in this endeavour, as Syria and Iran also oppose an independent Kurdish state, and this common goal has brought them together to face this potential threat to their interests.

The shift in the language of Turkish officials highlights this. They now express concern about protecting the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian state.

It is now in Turkey’s interests to stabilise Syria as soon as possible, for, prolonging the crisis only increases the changes of a new Kurdish state somewhere along the Turkish-Syrian border.

This Turkish shift in priority and action regarding Syria could be a real game changer. 

The Turkish-Russian rapprochement means that Ankara no longer views the situation in Syria as toppling the regime versus maintaining the crisis, but as an existential threat to its borders and, as such, acting and making alliances with anybody who supports its position.

As a result, the US has been forced to act on its own without intermediaries, especially in northern Syria.

US warplanes have flown over the city of Hassakeh in a symbolic gesture to protect the balance of power in that region. Until recently, the US worked very closely with Turkey in actions in Syria.

All this suggests that military escalation in the north of Syria is highly possible, especially in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

While this shift in Turkish policy could rebalance power and influence in the region, it will definitely lead to a noticeable change in the crisis in Syria.

The interesting question, however, is whether this new Turkish position is permanent or just a temporary tactical move to further its strategic interests in the region and provide leverage for Turkey amongst key allies.

The impact on internal Turkish politics could be key to this and to whether Erdogan can maintain the distance from the US by playing into Russia’s hands.


Categories: Asia, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Turks

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