Russia uses world war threat to dictate Syria policy: Turkish PM
AP PhotoRussia is deliberately using the threat of a possible world war in order to dictate its policy in Syria, according to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“Russia is consciously engaging in a perception operation to suggest ‘there could be a world war.’ By keeping this on the agenda, Russia continues to bother the world and dictate its policy,” Davutoğlu said Feb. 15 en route to Kyiv for a one-day visit.
“We should not be tricked with this perception operation,” he added.
Davutoğlu was referring to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s words in Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on Feb. 11 that “world war” was possible if international powers failed to negotiate an end to the conflict in Syria.
Medvedev also said the United States and Russia, and even Turkey, must exert pressure on all sides in the conflict to secure a cease-fire.
On Feb. 13, Medvedev said strains between Russia and the West had pushed the world “into a new cold war.”
“On an almost daily basis, we are being described as the worst threat – be it to NATO as a whole, or to Europe, America or other countries,” Medvedev said.
On Feb. 14, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Russian President Vladimir Putin was the only man who could end Syria’s civil war “with one phone call.”
Speaking on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show on Feb. 14, Hammond said the political situation in Syria had not changed in the past year and that “whether or not al-Assad goes or stays” depends on Russia’s influence.
Davutoğlu has once again vowed that Turkey will not allow Syria’s Azaz district, in the countryside north of Aleppo, to fall to the forces of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
“We will not let Azaz fall,” said Davutoğlu. “If they come close to Azaz once again, they will find the fiercest response.”
During the weekend, Turkey’s army shelled People’s Protection Units (YPG) targets, the military wing of the PYD, which Ankara has dubbed as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after the group seized an air base north of Aleppo, further complicating the conflict on NATO-member Turkey’s southern border.
Washington, which does not see the YPG as terrorists, backs the group in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and a row has been simmering between Turkey and the U.S. over the different designation of the group.
Davutoğlu said Turkey would “react decisively” if the YPG and the PYD, which Davutoğlu accuses of acting as the tools of Russia in the region, continue to attack Azaz and cause the flow of migrants.
Referring to PYD co-chair Salih Muslim’s words rejecting Turkish demands to withdraw from positions near the border, Davutoğlu said there was no need to say that they “would not withdraw,” as “YPG forces had been removed from around Azaz.”
“If they do not withdraw, we will make the Menagh air base unusable. I said this to [U.S. Vice President Joe] Biden,” said Davutoğlu.
“Turkey’s position is clear: The YPG will not pass to the west of the Euphrates River and the east of Afrin,” he added.
Meanwhile, Davutoğlu accused Russia and the PYD of violating international law in Syria in order to gain territory before a solution is reached.
“The Syrian regime, its supporter Russia, others and terrorist organizations, especially the YPG, are committing many crimes against humanity in Syria today. They are openly violating international law in order to gain territory before a solution,” Davutoğlu said in Kyiv during a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.