Turkish policy toward Syria
Sir, – I am writing with regard to the article in your newspaper “Turkey-Russia agreement offers Idlib only brief respite” (September 19th).
Turkey, as opposed to most other major actors active in the region, is the only country with a direct border with and exposure to Syria and the effects of the conflict. Additionally, Turkey is the only country that stands in the way of Syria’s Idlib province and its 3.5 million civilian inhabitants from suffering the same scorched-earth scenario as other regions such as Eastern Ghouta, North of Homs and Deraa-Quneitra, Aleppo or Raqqa. Any major Assad regime offensive on Idlib will be a source of a new migration wave towards Turkey and Europe. This entails also the risk of infiltration by terrorist elements to Turkish territory and beyond. Accordingly, we are working hard to defuse the tension in the Idlib de-escalation area and believe that a major step has been attained to that effect with the signing in Sochi on September 17th of the Memorandum on Stabilisation of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area with Russia.
This agreement is a diplomatic success in avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe. Turkey will spare no effort in ensuring its full and timely implementation. We expect the international community to support this agreement, and to exert pressure on the regime and its allies to ensure their compliance with the memorandum.
Allegations that Turkey’s objective is to seize territory in a vast stretch of Syria via establishing a permanent protectorate fuelled by supposedly grandiose schemes to re-establish dominion over former Ottoman territories are entirely baseless.
Turkey, from the very outset and at the highest levels, has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity. Like every country, Turkey has the right and duty to protect its borders and citizens. Accordingly, Turkey’s intervention in the north of Syria through the Euphrates Shield Operation and in Afrin via the Olive Branch Operation, were carried out against the designated terrorist groups ISIS and YPG/PKK which conducted attacks against our border regions and citizens causing casualties, and not against Kurds or any other community. Upon liberation of these zones from these terror groups, the afore-mentioned areas were returned to the control of civilian administrations through local councils comprising members of all ethnic groups, including the Kurds. In fact, the 20 member Afrin Council is composed of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen members, presided over by a Kurd.
Turkey only aims to avert the security threat originating from these regions merely while simultaneously extending very significant humanitarian (food, health services) and infrastructural reconstruction services (electricity, water etc) to aid the local population traumatized by years of conflict, so they may re-establish order, security, stability and essential services.
In short, Turkey has no intention at all to stay in this part of Syrian territories, provided that a permanent political settlement guaranteeing the security and rights of the local population is agreed upon and implemented and an effective control is put into place so that no terrorist organisations will be able to find again a safe haven next to our borders. – Yours, etc,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.