Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Turkey is the only country that offers solid solution to existing problems in Syria and that countries in US-led coalition lack providing any resolution.
In response to a question of a journalist over Syria on a trip to Turkey’s eastern province of Kars, Cavusoglu underlined that the current situation of Syria is not Turkey’s fault and it impossible for Turkey to divert from its people-oriented foreign policy principles.
“Now for Syria, Turkey is the only country that suggested political resolution and offered concrete proposals for the past five years. Five years later, the US and other countries say that they are sorry for not listening to Turkey’s advice. But, not only the US and also the coalition countries fail to understand the problems on the ground and bring solution,” Cavusoglu said, also naming Russia and Iran for involvement.
Reminding flaws may occur sometimes in implementation of policies, Cavusoglu said, ”It is not possible for us to give up on our principles only because of certain troubles.”
On Thursday, triple explosions took place in Syrian town of Kobane right by its border gate with Turkey near Sanliurfa which led to accusations on Turkey that ISIS militants who carried out the car bombing attacks had entered Syria from Turkey.
The claims were denied by Turkey as the video footage of the border gate also proved the vehicles arrived in border from Syria.
The attacks sparked clashes between the ISIS militants and the militants of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is the military unit of the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) that controls Kobane.
Later, YPG spokesman Redur Xelil confirmed that the ISIS militants did not enter Kobane from Turkish border gate in north, rather the militants entered the city through its south and the west of the country.
Reuters reported at least 145 had died in the attack.
The attack in Kobane came right after weeks of long clashes in Tal Abyad between ISIS militants and the YPG resulted in the YPG taking over the city. The clashes caused refugee influx into Turkey as more than 23,000 civilians from Syrian villages and towns crossed the Turkish border into the southeast province of Sanliurfa over the past two weeks.
Turkey is hosting over 2 million Syrian refugees and according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Turkey was the recipient of highest number of refugees in 2014.
There has been speculations that the US and Turkey have been differing over policies about Syria as Turkey’s priority has been maintaining the security of its borders.
Although the exclusion of Assad regime in any resolution in Syria has been pushed by Turkey, the recent developments around the Turkey’s Syrian border have been concerning for country as Turkey underlines the importance of its national security in the long term against the actors by its border that strive to establish their own states.
Turkey has raised that the Kurdish “cantons” were declared by the PYD, after the Syrian border district of Tal Abyad has been captured by the Kurdish group.
Turkish government spokesman Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, “We keep saying that in northern Syria, no formations which threaten Turkey should be allowed. But recent developments began indicating an emergency situation for Turkey,” following the first post-election Cabinet meet.
The PYD is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK.
Kurdish “cantons” in northern Syria have been proclaimed by the PYD following withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas such as Afrin, Kobane, and Amuda where the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, took control in July 2012 in the course of the Syrian civil war.
In late July 2012, the YPG also took over the districts of Al Malikiyah, Ra's al 'Ayn, Al Darbasiyah, and Al Maabadah. The districts of Qamishli and Hasaka have been partly controlled by the YPG and partly by the regime forces.
'US must recognise Turkey’s priorities’
Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University hosted a special conference under the sponsorship of NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division on Thursday regarding the role of Turkey’s foreign policy and soft power tools in the surrounding region.
During the conference titled “Changing Region: The role of Turkish Foreign Policy and Soft Power” that drew wide participation, Professor Gulnur Aybet underlined that “Turkey’s involvement -if we can call it involvement- across the border basically entirely centred around national security priorities.”
Aybet reminded that priority divergences are different from interests and said, ”There is difference of priorities for Turkey and the US in this level, in the sense that for Turkey, the priority is the removal of Assad regime, and for the US, the priority is to eliminate DAESH - ISIS. Both are difficult tasks to achieve and in both, neither Turkey nor the US, seem to have very clear cut strategy on how to achieve this.”
According to Aybet, this does not mean the YPG is not a problem for the US and that ISIS is not considered a terrorist organisation for Turkey, it is just the situation requires different priorities. Though, she underlines that “Turkey here has every right to have this priority because its the only NATO ally that shares 900 or so kilometres border with Syria. It is a security concern.”
Explaining that there is a lack of understanding of Turkey’s national security concerns in the region, she said, “It's no secret that YPG has links to the PKK which is a designated terrorist organization as recognized by the US, the EU and Turkey.” Aybet expressed the disagreement between the US and Turkey over priorities is a bilateral issue which has nothing to do with NATO and noted the countries will have to work the issue out.
When it comes to the groups fighting by Turkey’s border, she said, “I wouldn’t really classify these groups neither the YPG nor ISIS as a neighbour because these are groups that are fighting each other in a failed state. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the situation on the ground in Syria because it changes every day. I think using the word neighbour is wrong. Syria is still an intact country as recognised by the international community.”
In her speech, she also clarified that Syria is not a NATO issue and that the only NATO member involved in Syria is the US while the other NATO countries allied in US air strikes are involved in Iraq. “If there are differences in priorities between Turkey and a NATO member country, that's not the same as Turkey having a divergence with NATO,” Aybet said.