Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced that a National Security Council (MGK) meeting will today discuss whether the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should carry out a cross-border operation into northern Syria following the recent clashes along the Turkish border between ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
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. Both ISIS and its nemesis the PYD are recognised as terrorist groups by Turkey.
“We will have a MGK meeting and will make a statement following the meeting,” Cavusoglu said, replying a question during a visit to northern Turkey on Sunday.
Turkish media has already reported that Turkish civilian and military leaders are debating about the option of a cross-border operation in northern Syria to create a security zone.
Turkish daily Yeni Safak reported yesterday that Ankara is planning to establish a buffer zone along the 110-kilometre long Turkish border from Karkamis (Jarablus) to Oncupinar [closer to Azez] crossing at a depth of 28 kilometres to 33 kilometres and gave a directive to the TSK to take necessary measures.
The newspaper 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.
Turkish government will have two scenarios to execute its cross-border operation according to the newspaper. First, the country will seek diplomatic support from the NATO and US-led coalition forces citing the coalition air strikes created a balance of power in the region at the expense of Turkish national security. If this request materialises, the TSK could stay in the planned buffer zone for at least two years.
If this scenario does not become reality, Turkey will activate its second plan which is based on the “Southern Lebanon Model,” which was used by Israel in order to ensure its own security in the country against Hezbollah camps, the daily stated. In this case, the Turkish military will have a shorter term presence in northern Syria, but it could strengthen the FSA forces in the region by giving logistical support and training.
After taking control of Tal Abyad from the ISIS on June 15, the PYD is able to join the Kobane and Jazira “cantons.” In November 2013, the PYD announced three autonomous areas - Afrin, Kobane and Jazira [from the west to the east] - following the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces in July 2012.
However, ISIS hit back YPG in that controls Kobane on Saturday for second time after it sieged the city in 2014. Now it seems that ISIS has a new target in northwestern Syria - an area located between Mare and Azez which is controlled by the Free Syrian Army [FSA].
ISIS is already controlling a zone from Jarablus to Mare along the Turkish border, which is also located between the two Kurdish “cantons” Kobane and Afrin.
The Turkish government has been alarmed by ISIS move toward the Azez-Mare line due to the threat posed to Turkey’s border security.
If ISIS captures the area, it will able to take control of the Oncupinar border crossing to Turkey, and could get closer to the Cilvegozu crossing.
The culmination effect of capturing the crossings could cause a new wave of refugees from Syria to Turkey. Turkey 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.
Turkey’s other concern is enlargement of northern Kurdish enclaves under the control of the Kurdish group PYD along its long border line with Syria. 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.