Turkey slams US before Erdoğan, Putin meet on Syria
The past week has observed intense diplomacy in New York where world leaders met for the 76th U.N. General Assembly.
Turkey was represented with a large delegation led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with the participation of senior officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Erdoğan’s address to the U.N. General Assembly was found to be moderate by many foreign diplomats who welcomed his announcement that the Turkish Parliament will ratify the Paris climate convention in October. From the U.N. podium, he recommended international cooperation in addressing the various problems arising from the Afghanistan crisis and the Syrian civil war and underlined that the continued calmness in the eastern Mediterranean is in the common interest of all parties involved.
But Erdoğan’s consecutive statements to reporters in New York and Istanbul were slightly different. He reiterated that he didn’t have a good start with United States President Joe Biden who came to office in January 2021. In Istanbul, answering the questions of reporters on Sept. 24, Erdoğan accused the U.S. of supporting terror organizations rather than fighting them, about the U.S. partnership with the YPG in northern Syria.
This harsh criticism came as surprise for many foreign diplomats who referred to the Turkish-American cooperation in Afghanistan and intense engagement between the officials of the two countries. In New York, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a bilateral meeting for around an hour while presidential spokesman and foreign policy adviser İbrahim Kalın held talks with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington in the past week.
Turkey has long been expressing its frustration over the continued alliance between the U.S. and the YPG, designated as a terrorist organization due to its link with the PKK, but today’s main problem concerning Syria is Idlib and not northern Syria.
As a matter of fact, Erdoğan admits this in his statement on Sept. 24. “The Assad regime in Syria poses threats in the south of Turkey,” the Turkish president stressed, referring to the Assad forces’ operations in the Idlib province where around three million people are being sheltered. Turkey is concerned that any major military action in the province can lead to a new refugee influx toward Turkish borders.
Recalling that he will travel to Sochi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, Erdoğan said Syria will be the most important issue on the agenda. He also expressed he is expecting different approaches from Russia on Syria as a requirement of solidarity, without detailing them.
To note, four Turkish troops were killed on Sept. 10 by a radical terror organization that was allegedly created by the Syrian regime to create difficulties to the Turkish troops deployed in Idlib. On Sept. 14, Syrian President Bashar Assad paid a visit to Moscow to meet Putin who outlined the presence of the armed forces of foreign countries as the biggest problem in Syria.
It will therefore be important to hear the messages to be given by Putin and Erdoğan following their meetings in Sochi and whether Moscow will change its long-standing policy concerning Syria. Equally important, it will remain to be seen whether Turkey will undertake a change in its policy on Syria and whether Erdoğan’s harsh statements against the Biden administration are also related to it.