Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has told US Foreign Minister John Kerry that Turkey will not merely stand by and watch rapid developments evolving in northern Syria along the Turkish border and will commence its own action plan.
Turkey’s concerns regarding its border has increased following recent clashes in the region between ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), resulting in the expansion of YPG-held territory along the Turkish border to join its own cantons.
The YPG is the militant wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK.
According to reports, Cavusoglu made a phone call to his US counterpart Kerry on June 26 saying that Turkish national security has been compromised by efforts of the PYD to establish a “Kurdish corridor” along its 900-kilometre long border in northern Syria.
“Turkey will not allow a fait accompli. A buffer zone should immediately be established in the region which we could do it together or we will go our own way. You should take serious our concerns,” he said.
Turkey and the US-led coalition forces seem to have some differences in terms of priorities in northern Syria, despite seeking the same interests. Turkey is concerned by the PYD’s activities in northern Syria along the Turkish border as much as it is concerned with the actions of ISIS and the Assad regime.
Both ISIS and its nemesis the PYD are recognised as terrorist groups by Turkey.
However, the US-led coalition is incomparably supportive of the PYD’s activities against ISIS, which has been heavily bombarded by the coalition in coordination with the PYD march.
Cavusoglu previously announced that a National Security Council (MGK) meeting would discuss whether the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should carry out a cross-border operation into northern Syria.
The MGK meeting, which was held yesterday, released a statement saying that “developments in Syria were comprehensively discussed, possible threats were evaluated, and possible additional security measures were stressed.”
US deputy spokesman Mark Toner in the Washington’s daily press briefing on June 29 replied to the Turkish request saying that, “We have seen those reports and we’ve actually seen reports out of Turkey as well about these so-called no-fly or military-enforced zones. For our part, our position hasn’t changed.” .
“The creation and enforcement of a no-fly zone or any other military enforced zone presents significant challenges. We’ve been very upfront about that. They include military, financial, but also humanitarian challenges that we need to obviously consider in the broader context,” he added.
Toner also said he cannot elaborate more on the reports because they do not have “any more concrete facts to go on than that.”
Media reports suggested that Ankara is planning to establish a buffer zone along the 110-kilometre long Turkish border from Karkamis (Jarablus) to the Oncupinar crossing [closer to Azez] at a depth of 28 kilometres to 33 kilometres inside the Syrian territory and gave a directive to the TSK to take necessary measures.
The newspaper also reported that mobilisation capabilities of 46 different armed groups have closely been pursued by Turkey and approximately 18,000 soldiers are planned to participate in the cross-border operation.
ISIS is already controlling a zone from Jarablus to Mare along the Turkish border which is also laid out between the two Kurdish “cantons” Kobane and Afrin.
After taking control of Tal Abyad from the ISIS on June 15, the PYD is able to join the Kobane and Jazira “cantons” along the Turkish border.
If ISIS captures the area between Mare and Azez where it has reportedly been attacking recently, it will be able to take control of the Oncupinar border crossing to Turkey, and could get closer to the Cilvegozu crossing. Therefore, Turkey would virtually lose its access to its border because the border will completely be controlled by the two groups hostile to the country.
In addition, the culmination effect of capturing the crossings could cause a new wave of refugees from Syria to Turkey which already hosts more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees who escaped the violence in their country in large numbers after the escalation of the Syrian Civil War.
In another dire scenario, threatened by the ISIS on Azez-Mare line the FSA could ask help from the YPG in order to protect its own region which may make the Kurdish group capable of extending its reach to Afrin, another Kurdish “canton” declared by the PYD in the very west.
Effectively, the PYD might take full control of the Turkish-Syrian border and arouse more suspicions in Turkey that a Kurdish state is at its gates.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a state in northern Syria, or south of Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population, no matter what it costs for the country.