President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote an article entitled “Turkey-Russia cooperation is of critical importance for the resolution of the Syrian crisis” for the leading Russian newspaper Kommersant.
The civil war that has continued in Syria since 2011 and cost hundreds of thousands of people's lives is moving towards a new stage with the decision of the United States to withdraw its troops in the region. At the meetings which I held with US President Mr. Donald Trump in December, I explained that Turkey is committed to take the necessary steps for re-establishing peace and stability in the Middle East during this new process. In this respect, we would like to continue our close cooperation with the Russian Federation which we together initiated the Astana process.
The withdrawal of the United States from Syria is a step in the right direction. Because the crisis in Syria can only be resolved by the countries that will benefit from recovering the wounds in Syria and that will suffer from the deepening of the wounds. In this sense, Turkey is in favor of a political solution which will preserve the territorial integrity of our neighbor, ensure the political representation for the whole spectrum of Syrian society and will enable the people who have been displaced due to violence to return their home. In order to achieve these objectives, Turkey and Russia should continue to be in cooperation and coordination. As a matter of fact, the Idlib agreement we negotiated last year is the clearest indication demonstrating that our cooperation has a great importance for the protection of the interests of both our countries and the people of Syria.
On the other hand, in recent weeks, we have witnessed some structures in the United States in an effort to prevent the withdrawal decision that will contribute to the end of the Syrian crisis. From the standpoint of Turkey, the reference point of this process is the agreement platform which is emerging from the meetings I have held with Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, we observe that such expressions claiming that “Turkey will slaughter the Kurds” or “Let our Kurdish allies not leave in the lurch”, are circulated to make pressure on the Trump Administration.
I would like to initially explain that the Republic of Turkey had no problem with Syrian Kurds or any other groups living inside the borders of our neighboring country. The unfounded allegations-based in the US do not reflect the facts, but the perspective of certain interest groups. On the other hand, we have made it clear that we will neither tolerate the existence of the elements that pose a threat to the national security of our country, nor any of the elements that pose a threat to the territorial integrity of Syria.
In recent years, the United States has provided weapons and training support to the Syrian extension of the PKK terrorist organization, PYD/YPG terrorists. These strategically and morally problematic steps were taken in the name of the fight against the DAESH terrorist organization. This error of the US caused Syrians living under the pressure of DAESH to fall under the control of another terrorist organization. In other words, the US let the fox guard the henhouse. In fact, because the policy was problematic, first official web sites that accepted the PKK-PYD connection were censored, and then a new virtual structure was established under the name of Syrian Democratic Forces.
The segments that formed this roadmap today continue to hide the facts about the PYD/YPG from the international public opinion. First of all, the Syrian extension of the PKK was never sincere about fighting terrorism. On the contrary, by persuading some US officials, they have attempted to establish a state of terror in northern Syria under the auspices of fighting against DAESH. We gave our response to this project by carrying out the Operation Olive Branch and eliminating the organization from Afrin. In the coming periods, we will take the necessary steps to protect the territorial integrity of our neighbour with our friends and allies.
Today, the point that some people in America ignore is that this organization does not represent Syrian Kurds; on the contrary, it has done many bad things to the Syrian citizens of Kurdish origin. Indeed, the most obvious indicator of this situation is the fact that tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds who fled from the oppression of the organization has been living in Turkey for many years. Therefore, the allegations circulated in recent weeks have nothing to do with the facts. On the other hand, we are not going to ask anyone what to do with a terrorist group whose activities have been targeting our citizens for more than thirty years, or ask for permission to fight terrorism. When the conditions develop, we reserve our right to target terrorists who threaten our country from Syrian territories.
Finally, we do not want the gains we have achieved under the Astana Process and the progress we have made towards the political solution in this process with the Russian Federation, to fail. We have to join forces in order to re-establish and reconstruct Syria. This is the only way to put an end to terrorism, to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist organizations, primarily DAESH, and thus protect Syria from outside interference.
Turkey's position on Syria is clear. The elimination of the instability in our southern border is only possible if we are in co-operation with our friends and allies. In this context, we have to be decisive in our struggle against both DAESH and the Syrian extension of the PKK terrorist organization. The problems that exist in our region can be permanently solved only by those people whose lives depend on the fate of this region. The time when politics was determined by newspaper headlines and social media campaigns has passed.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey was the only country that declared what they would do to cope with the humanitarian crisis and the instability in the region. In the same way, we were the only country that kept their promises. From the beginning of the crisis, while continuing our humanitarian aid, we also stressed that the issue may only be resolved with a political solution. In this context, we are ready to cooperate with our friends and allies to support the fight against terrorism, to establish stability and to ensure peace.