The recent developments in Syria, including the withdrawal decision by the U.S., have been complicating the already challenging situation even more in the war-torn country that is desperate for a political resolution.
As one of the most engaged actors on the ground and a neighbor sharing more than 911 kilometers of borders with Syria, Turkey has been voicing its concerns over terrorist threats to its national security and the ultimate need for bringing political stability to the region. The other actors on the ground, namely the United States, Russia, and Iran have also put their agency to work in Syria, in a way that best serves their own interests, without necessarily taking Ankara's security concerns into consideration, and at times through seemingly inconsistent policies.
Moreover, Turkey has clearly underlined that it ultimately works to prevent the presence of terrorist groups, protect the territorial integrity of Syria and enable the return of the refugees to safe areas. One of the conflicting issues between Ankara and other actors on the ground is their approach to the PKK terrorist group's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is backed by the U.S. under the pretext of fighting Daesh. Turkey has repeatedly called on the U.S. to end its partnership with the group, and Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed that a terror corridor, an autonomous region in northern Syria governed by the YPG, along Turkey's borders will not be accepted.
Russia also does not put the YPG; a group Ankara says is not any different from the PKK, on its terrorist list. The PKK is also listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the EU. Underlining that the YPG presence in northern Syria is a grave security concern for Ankara, Uluç Özülker, a retired ambassador told Daily Sabah that previously the population of these areas was dominated by Arabs but this was gradually changed. He added that the issue east of Euphrates, where terrorists have domination over the land, awaits an urgent resolution. U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria was announced in December, opening room for a new area of strategy-building for the actors on the ground to take their future steps.
"Currently the environment is highly complicated and many developments can shape the upcoming period," Özülker said regarding the withdrawal process. In order to avoid any power vacuum that could arise after the withdrawal of the U.S., Ankara has been continuing dialogue with Washington. The next meeting of the Turkey-U.S. joint working group is expected to be held in Ankara today. In the meeting, Turkish officials are expected to reiterate their concerns and expectations from the U.S. "There were different statements, opinions expressed following the withdrawal decision. This has indicated that the U.S. has no clear strategy over the issue," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday in Ankara and added that Turkey is willing to help to coordinate the process. He underscored that in the meeting, the process of the U.S. withdrawal will be the main focus and the sides will discuss how they can cooperate. Çavuşoğlu also said that it is important to reach a mutual understanding in issues such as the safe zone.