Turkey’s moves to normalise Syrian relations alarms exiles
Syria’s opposition has condemned moves by Turkey to normalise relations with the embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Opposition activists claimed a rapprochement will lead to mass population swaps and the forced return of millions of refugees.
Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria fear new Turkish incursions to carve out territory along its border with Syria where Ankara can transfer some of the millions of Syrian refugees who have been sheltering in Turkey for years.
Turkey’s strongman leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan U-turned on the Assad regime last week.
“For us, the issue is not about defeating or not defeating Assad,” Erdogan said, calling for diplomatic channels to reopen after more than a decade of fighting. “Political dialogue or diplomacy cannot be cut off between states.”
Erdogan is escalating attacks on ethnic Kurdish forces in the north of Syria but he claimed he did not want territorial expansion. “We do not have eyes on the territory of Syria because the people of Syria are our brothers,” the populist leader said.
Veteran Syrian opposition representative George Sabra posted on Facebook that while Turkey may seek reconciliation, Syrians “have a different cause for which they have paid and continue to pay the highest price”.
According to the United Nations, more than 306,000 civilians have died in the Syrian civil war and 13.7 million have been displaced. Syria’s pre-war population was 22 million.
Russia and Iran have bolstered the Assad regime and they, along with Turkey, have an interest in the tattered country where large populations remain outside the control of the Damascus regime.
In northwest Syria on Monday Russian airstrikes targeted 13 sites in Idlib province, where the anti-Assad opposition and those displaced by war are clustered.
The bombings were some of the heaviest since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine required the redistribution of Putin’s aircraft to Europe.
Previously Erdogan has condemned Russian airstrikes in Idlib, where Turkey is influential. However, the Turkish authorities did not react to this week’s bombings as Ankara appears to have agreed to a solution with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan is understood to have been discouraged from launching an incursion into Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria last month after talks with Putin in Sochi. Erdogan now appears to have reached a diplomatic solution with Syria. But Turkish forces are still using drone strikes against supposed Kurdish rebels.
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