Turkey’s talk of reconciliation angers rebels - GulfToday

Turkey’s talk of reconciliation angers rebels


Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Syria is a political minefield. Russians support the Bashar Assad regime. The Americans want him out and there is support for the American position among some of Syria’s neighbours. The Daesh had unleashed violence in parts of Syria which is under the control of the rebels. The Syrian Kurds have been fighting along with the anti-Assad rebels, but Turkey, which is no friend of Assad, is keen to put down the Kurds to keep its own Kurds on the leash. Iran supports the Assad regime, while Israel is opposed to it. It is in this complicated and explosive situation that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had on Friday said that there must be a reconciliation between the rebels and the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus. He said the 11-year civil was going nowhere. Cavusoglu said, “We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be lasting peace, we always say this.”

There was an outbreak of protests all over the rebel-held north which is under the control of Turkish troops. The rebels have an argument. They have paid the price for the rebellion with the death of half-a-million people and more than a million who fled the country and living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. George Sabra, a well-known anti-Assad rebel wrote on Facebook: “If Cavusoglu is concerned with reconciling with the Syrian regime, that is his business. As for the Syrians, they have a different cause for which they have paid and continue to pay the dearest price.”

Cavusoglu indicated that he had a short meeting with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Al-Meqdad in Belgrade, and that the Turkish and Syrian intelligence agencies were in contact with each other. He said there was however no meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad, though Russia has been pressing Turkey for such a meeting. Cavusoglu said that Turkey would however continue to fight against terrorism in Syria, and it is a hint that Turkey would fight the Kurdish rebels in Syria though the Kurds are fighting against Assad. Turkey fears that the Kurds in Syria and the Kurds in Iran would join hands to fight against Ankara as well as against Damascus.

Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), but it is also close to Russia. In the war in Ukraine, Turkey has the role of the peace-broker between Russia and Ukraine and helped in facilitating Ukraine t export grain through the Black Sea. Neither America nor NATO have objected to Turkey playing the role of the middleman. But Turkey’s position on Turkey has been problematic because it does not toe the line either of Russia or America. Cavusoglu’s statement must be seen in the context of Turkey’s concerns against the Kurds.

Whatever its political motives for mooting reconciliation between the rebels and the Syrian regime, it may not be acceptable to the rival camps in Syria. One of the reasons behind the outbreak of the 2011 civil war in Syria in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings is Bashar Assad’s refusal to yield ground to the legitimate demands of the rebels. He is not willing to share the political space and political power with the others in a democratic set up. His Baath Party with its socialist credo has been the sole ruling party in Syria since his father, Hafez Assad, had taken over the political reins in 1971. The senior Assad aligned with then Soviet Union in building Syria’s miliary strength. And the Syria-Russia alliance continues in the post-Soviet period. His son is now stuck in the old political groove though for a while it seemed that he will pull Syria out of the old Cold War mould.

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