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Unraveling Turkey’s Evolving Syria Strategy – A Delicate Balancing Act

The recent statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan have cast a new light on Turkey's intricate policy towards Syria, Abdulmunem Issa writes in al-Watan.
Unraveling Turkey’s Evolving Syria Strategy – A Delicate Balancing Act

The recent statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan have cast a new light on Turkey’s intricate policy towards Syria, revealing a nuanced shift in Ankara’s strategy. Previously, Turkish diplomacy maintained a certain enigma, especially regarding its actions in Syria. However, Fidan’s words on January 3 peeled back this layer of diplomatic ambiguity, revealing a more direct approach.

Fidan emphasized Turkey’s commitment to a political solution in Syria, a stance that isn’t new but is increasingly evident. More significantly, he underscored the importance of averting new conflicts between the Syrian government and opposition factions. This rhetoric of reconciliation and “forgetting the hatred” signals a broader goal – one that transcends mere pacification and hints at Ankara’s deeper strategic considerations.

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What stands out in Fidan’s discourse is the recognition of the need to balance the interests of various factions in Syria, particularly in the context of the Turkish government’s concerns over the Democratic Union Party’s influence in the northeastern regions. This concern appears to be a driving factor in Ankara’s recalibrated approach, especially in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s recent visit. The meeting, while primarily focusing on the situation in Gaza, also touched upon Washington’s support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), underscoring the complex geopolitical interplay at work.

The U.S. has been attempting to mediate between Ankara and the Autonomous Administration in Syria, evidenced by recent structural changes within the Syrian Democratic Councils. The appointment of Mahmoud Al-Musalat, a Syrian-American, as co-chair is a move likely inspired by the U.S. to soothe Turkish apprehensions. However, this has not quelled the intensity of Turkish military operations against SDF positions, indicating Ankara’s unwavering stance against perceived threats.

Furthermore, the frustrations of the SDF’s Commander-in-Chief, Mazloum Abdi, over unfulfilled American promises against Turkish aggression, point to a broader discontent. This dissatisfaction also highlights concerns about the capacity of SDF forces to confront ISIS and manage detention facilities holding ISIS fighters and their families.

Turkey’s policy thus appears to be walking a tightrope. On one hand, it seeks to foster a semblance of stability in Northern Syria, especially between the Syrian government and Ankara-aligned opposition factions. This push for calm is likely driven by a desire to reinvigorate the stalled settlement process and possibly return to the “Astana” negotiation track, which has recently faltered. By doing so, Turkey aims to leverage its role as a host to millions of Syrian refugees and as a key player in the Syrian conflict.

On the other hand, Turkey is applying significant pressure on the self-administration areas, particularly those under the influence of the SDF. This strategy isn’t limited to military means; it also involves political maneuvers. Recent meetings between representatives of the “Syrian Opposition Coalition” and the “Kurdish National Council” suggest a Turkish interest in amplifying the latter’s influence within the Kurdish community. This could be a prelude to bolstering the “Rojava Peshmerga,” established in 2015, to counterbalance the SDF’s influence and align more closely with Turkish interests.

In conclusion, Turkey’s approach to Syria is increasingly assertive and multifaceted. While Ankara seeks to mitigate conflicts and foster political solutions, it simultaneously strengthens its position against groups it perceives as threats. This dual strategy reflects a deep-seated desire to safeguard national security while navigating the complex geopolitical landscape of the region. As the situation evolves, the world will watch closely to see how Turkey’s delicate balancing act plays out in the tumultuous arena of Syrian politics.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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