Ankara won’t tolerate US delay over Syria safe zone: Turkey’s foreign minister

Above, a resident walks in Ras Al-Ain in Syria’s Hasakeh province near the Turkish border. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Ankara won’t tolerate US delay over Syria safe zone: Turkey’s foreign minister

  • The goal of the zone is to create a buffer between the Turkish border and areas controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units
  • Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch an assault east of the Euphrates river against the Kurds

ANKARA: Ankara will not tolerate any delay from the US over setting up a safe zone in northern Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
“They (the US) first need to be sincere and need to understand that Turkey won’t tolerate delaying tactics,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a press conference in Ankara.
His comments come as an American military delegation headed by Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, deputy commander of the US European Command, was expected in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa.
He will supervise the establishment of the joint operations center as part of the effort to organize a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish defense ministry.
The Pentagon on Wednesday said the agreement would be “implemented in stages.”
The goal of the zone is to create a buffer between the Turkish border and areas controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch an assault east of the Euphrates river against the YPG, which it says is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
But Washington has worked closely with the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Little is known about the size of the safe zone and how it will work, but Cavusoglu said there would be observation posts and joint patrols.
He said US President Donald Trump had previously promised it would be 32-kilometer (20 mile) wide.
Turkey previously conducted two offensives into Syria, against Daesh and the YPG, in 2016 and 2018.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.