Turkey vows not to be in ‘defensive position’ over Syria
Turkey will no longer be in a “defensive position” over maintaining its national security interests amid developments in Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has said, after the Turkish army shelled Democratic Union Party (PYD) militias across the border.
“Can any team play defensively at all times but still win a match? … You can win nothing by playing defensively and you can lose whatever you have. There is a very dynamic situation in the region and one has to read this situation properly. One should not become withdrawn because of concerns and fears,” Akdoğan told private broadcaster Kanal 7 on Feb. 14.
His words followed Turkey’s shelling of militias from the PYD in Syria, an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“If you don’t [do what’s necessary] then you won’t be able to have a say in who is going to be your neighbor in the future. If this is the PKK, Daesh, or the [Syrian] regime, they all cause problem and risks for Turkey,” Akdoğan said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The PYD’s ambition to link its Afrin canton with its cantons east of the Euphrates River has been declared a “red line” by the Turkish government, which threatened to act if it observed such moves. Turkey twice hit PYD elements trying to cross the river in earlier months.
“We will not accept any mobilization from Afrin to the east by the PYD. We have observed that the PYD recently started to move forward through Azaz. These issues are direct security concerns for us,” Akdoğan added.
“We retaliated in kind yesterday [Feb. 13], in line with our rules of engagement. This was done for a reason. Turkey is not a country that will watch everything from the sidelines. It’s a country that can assess its own security and interests,” he said.
Is Turkey going to war?
However, the deputy prime minister said it would be a mistake to read these developments as an indication that “Turkey is going to war.”
“We are not playing a game here, we are ruling the state. The Republic of Turkey is not a tribe. It’s not a state that can stay indifferent to all of these. Everyone knows that Iran and Russia have militias in Syria but no one says Iran and Russia are at war,” Akdoğan said.