October 4, 2016
On February 22, the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. As a first reaction, even the most optimistic observers remained cautious. Pessimists were easier to find. Indeed, on the one hand this was a positive development, at least an effort to bring some though enough specificity to the hitherto broadly expressed concept of a ceasefire. And most importantly, this was the first time since the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons that Russia and the US had a detailed agreement regarding the Syrian conflict. On the other hand, the complexity of the ground situation with more than a hundred fighting groups, shifting alliances and lack of monitors were huge challenges. One could say, therefore, that the Joint Statement marked the beginning of a frustrating “ceasefire process” with many ups and downs. It was obvious that agreeing on who is a “moderate” and who is a “terrorist” would constitute a major challenge in a region characterized by murky relationships. Okumaya devam et →
September 26, 2016
On February 22, 2016, the US and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. Six months later, in the absence of any progress, they decided to revive it. At a joint press conference in Geneva both Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov underlined that the agreement they were announcing would only hold if the regime, the opposition and others met their obligations. Mr. Kerry said that the Russians have an ability to encourage Assad, and the US has an ability together with other countries to encourage the opposition. Yet, twelve days later he told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the agreement was “shredded by independent actors, by spoilers who don’t want a ceasefire”. The immediate reasons for the failure were a mistaken attack by coalition aircraft on Syrian government forces killing more than sixty soldiers and the controversy regarding the attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy. In reality these are only the symptoms of multiple conflicts of interest facing Russia and the US in forging a united front in Syria. Okumaya devam et →
September 15, 2016
Turkey’s foray into the Syrian conflict has been, beyond a shadow of doubt, our worst foreign policy blunder since the founding of the Republic in 1923. The political, security, economic and trade costs are too obvious, unlikely to disappear soon and need no elaboration except to say that the erosion of the trust others placed in us was perhaps our biggest loss.
For a long time, our allies asked us to seal off a 98 kilometer stretch of our border with Syria (*). In response Ankara said that it regards ISIL as a terrorist organization, that it is fighting it but it is impossible to seal off the border. Thus, a porous border combined with Ankara’s Assad obsession gave the impression that Turkey, with an “ends justify the means” approach, had been tolerant of ISIL and al-Nusra, if not supportive. Now, with Turkish armed forces in Syria, the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) almost claims to lead the fight against ISIL. It is ardently calling for lasting peace in Syria. We no longer call Syria “our backyard” but say “Syria belongs to the Syrians”. What are the underlying reasons for this change of attitude? And, does it represent a genuine course correction? Okumaya devam et →