| 08.01,19. 05:15 PM |
Turkey can 'protect interests of US, Syrians': Erdogan
The U.S. withdrawal from Syria must be planned carefully and performed in cooperation with the right partners to protect the interests of Washington, the international community and the Syrian people, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
"Turkey, which has NATO’s second largest standing army, is the only country with the power and commitment to perform that task," Erdogan said in an article penned for The New York Times.
Erdogan stressed in the op-ed that Turkey was committed to defeating Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria.
Recalling Turkey’s role in the Geneva and Astana peace processes and its position as the “sole stakeholder that can work simultaneously with the United States and Russia”, Erdogan said Turkey “intends to cooperate and coordinate” its actions with its allies.
“We will build on those partnerships to get the job done in Syria,” he added.
Calling on all stakeholders to join forces to end the terror by Daesh and preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, Erdogan said Turkey “is volunteering to shoulder this heavy burden at a critical time in history”.
“We are counting on the international community to stand with us,” he added.
U.S. withdrawal from Syria
Erdogan said President Donald Trump “made the right call” in deciding to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.
Trump made the unexpected decision last month to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from the war-torn country, sparking criticism from many allies and security aides, including his own Cabinet.
Recalling that in 2016, Turkey became the first country to deploy ground combat troops in Syria to fight the Daesh terrorist organization, Erdogan said this prevented Daesh from reaching NATO’s borders and carrying out attacks in Turkey and Europe.
The president said Turkish troops together with the Free Syrian Army "went door to door to root out insurgents" in Daesh's former stronghold of Al-Bab.
He said Turkey’s approach enabled a “stable environment” for the Syrian people as infrastructure remained intact, schools reopened, a Turkish-funded hospital provided medical support and business projects created job opportunities.
“This stable environment is the only cure for terrorism,” he added.
“I say this again: There will be no victory for the terrorists. Turkey will continue to do what it must to ensure its own safety and the well-being of the international community.”
Erdogan said "militarily speaking, the so-called Islamic State has been defeated in Syria", using another name for Daesh.
However, he said concerns remain that the remnants of Daesh will be used as an excuse to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs.
Emphasizing that a military victory against the terrorist group is a “mere first step”, Erdogan said Turkey “proposes a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the root causes of radicalization”.
“The first step is to create a stabilization force featuring fighters from all parts of Syrian society,” he said.
“Only a diverse body can serve all Syrian citizens and bring law and order to various parts of the country. In this sense, I would like to point out that we have no argument with the Syrian Kurds.”
He said that under wartime conditions, many young Syrians “had no choice but to join the PYD/YPG”.
Erdogan recalled a report by Human Rights Watch that highlighted the YPG’s violations of international law by recruiting children, stating that Turkey will complete an “intensive vetting process” to reunite child soldiers with their families.
Turkey has repeatedly objected to U.S. support for the PYD/YPG -- the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization -- as a "reliable ally" in Syria which has included supplying arms and equipment.
In its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the terrorist PKK has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children.
Adequate political representation
Erdogan said that "ensuring adequate political representation for all communities is another priority”.
He said those with no links to any terrorist groups can participate to represent their communities in local governments under Turkey's watch.
“Local councils in predominantly Kurdish parts of northern Syria will largely consist of the Kurdish community’s representatives whilst ensuring that all other groups enjoy fair political representation,” he said.
He said experienced Turkish officials will function as advisors on municipal affairs, education, health care and emergency services.
The op-ed was published a day before Erdogan is due to meet U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.
A top U.S. national security delegation including Bolton arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday to discuss recent developments, including in Syria.
The delegation is expected to meet with Turkish officials and discuss the coordination of regional security between Turkey and the U.S. following the decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.