Ankara on alert over developments in northern Syria

Ankara on alert over developments in northern Syria

Ankara on alert over developments in northern Syria

AA Photo

Turkish leadership has visibly intensified its focus on cementing security at the country’s border with Syria, which has recently been the scene of an influx of some 23,000 Syrians into Turkey during the fight between Kurdish forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to seize the border town of Tal Abyad.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a meeting with members of the government and senior bureaucrats late June 17. He is scheduled to chair yet another security meeting late June 18.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk, Turkey’s disaster agency chairman Fuat Oktay and other relevant bureaucrats attended at the meeting, according to presidency sources.

Kurdish fighters in Syria have taken control of the border town of Tal Abyad, dealing a significant blow to ISIL’s ability to wage war in Syria by cutting off a supply line to Raqqa. 

In a sign of urgency and significance attributed to the issue and contrary to the composition of regular cabinet meetings, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Land Forces Commander Hulusi Akar attended the meeting in order to brief the Council of Ministers on June 15.

The Kurdish advance prompted some 23,349 people to flee into Turkey on June 3-16, but on June 17, 1,100 people returned home through the Akçakale border crossing, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç told reporters June 18. 

Turkey has contacted a series of capitals and international organizations including the U.N. Security Council, EU and NATO Secretary General through phone calls, letters and by Turkish diplomatic missions in order to convey its uneasiness over the chaotic situation at its border with Syria, Bilgiç also said. 

Turkey informed P5+1 countries, the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus Germany) and other capitals such as Rome and Brussels.   

Çavuşoğlu also talked with the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Britain and was planning to talks to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on June 18, Bilgiç said. 

Çavuşoğlu also discussed the issue with Saudi officials and other participants of the Islamic Cooperation Organization in Jeddah June 17.

Ankara stressed the risk concerning changes in the region’s demography with the Kurdish advance in northern Syria. 

Turkey expressed its demand for a strategy that would prevent the piling up of refugees at the border, while also reiterating its desire for the enforcement of a Syrian safe zone and no-fly zone, which could prevent the influx of Syrian refugees on the Turkish border, the spokesperson said.

Ankara also discussed developments in Akçakale and Tal Abyad of Syria, he said.

“It’s important that the international community should display sensitivity. They should especially not remain insusceptible to this issue as they did for other incidents in Kobane,” Bilgiç noted.

Elaborating on the People’s Defense Units (YPG) advance in Syria, the spokesperson said Turkey cannot accept this move if it leads to a demographic change in the region. “Developments in the coming days will shape Turkey’s policies on the issue,” he stated.

Turkey considers Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

The Turkish government earlier expressed strong concerns about the imposition of a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria after the PYD increased its control in the area.