A thaw in Turkey-Syria relations may be a step towards a ‘New Europe’ in the Middle East — RT World News

Ankara and Damascus, with the support of Moscow, are trying to reconcile. This could lead to a prosperous and integrated region

Delegations from Syria, Iran and Turkey met their counterparts this week in Moscow to discuss the normalization of relations between Turkey and Syria. This is the prelude to a high-level meeting which will take place later this month.

Better cooperation would be particularly important in ending the ongoing Syrian conflict, as Ankara and Damascus share a long border and relations that have been frozen since the start of the war.

Syrian officials had said their delegates would focus on ending Türkiye’s military presence in their country, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and non-interference in Syria’s internal affairs by other countries. The meeting is the latest in a series of steps, strongly backed by Moscow, towards reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus after an 11-year rift in relations. Likewise, these negotiations follow a reconciliation between perennial regional adversaries Iran and Saudi Arabia recently brokered by China.

For Syria, Damascus wants to reclaim its territory held by Kurdish-backed forces in the northern and northeastern sectors of the country. They also do not want the possibility of a Turkish invasion of their country in case the security situation becomes delicate. For its part, Turkey is worried about the presence of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), which Ankara associates with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

While most Western countries regard the YPG as a normal paramilitary organization (which, by the way, comprises the bulk of the anti-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces), the PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by a number of key Western players, including the United States and the EU. Turkey, meanwhile, views both as terrorist groups and sees the YPG as, essentially, the Syrian wing of the PKK. This assessment is supported by the US Director of National Intelligence in a 2018 report reportas well as by sources on the ground, including foreign mercenaries who have fought in Syria alongside Kurdish forces, who tell me that the two groups are virtually interchangeable and regularly swap soldiers.

Turkey’s willingness to suppress Kurdish movements on the Turkish-Syrian border is both understandable and a point of mutual agreement for both sides. It could also help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his next election, giving him a boost to quell a terrorist threat and improve cooperation with his neighbour.

In terms of how this will end the war, the obvious outstanding question concerns the remaining US bases and troops in Syria, who are stationed in the country in violation of international law and military authorization even under from which they act. The last point was even declared by former US Ambassador to Syria and former advocate for supporting the Syrian opposition against Assad, Robert Ford. therefore, losing ground support from Kurdish militants along the Syrian-Turkish border, where US troops were previously stationed, will weaken the position of the forces still stationed in the eastern part of Syria.

It is hoped that the thawing of animosities between Syria and Turkey will end foreign interference in Syria, including the occupation of its oil-rich regions by US forces. Given that Turkey is a powerful US military ally in the region and was a major starting point for US military support for anti-Assad militant groups, this would undermine Washington’s logistical, strategic and diplomatic abilities to interfere in the internal affairs of Damascus. It would also help reintegrate Syria into the Middle East and global communities.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia recently announced plans to invite the Syrian president at the upcoming Arab League summit in Riyadh in May. This is a major signal that Syria’s decade-long exclusion from the Arab community, at the behest of Washington, is coming to an end. This can help pursue regional integration in the Middle East despite foreign interference and attempts at division.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman once famously remarked that the new Europe will be the Middle East. In 2018, he said that in the next five years (that is, now), his country would be “totally different” and that other countries in the Middle East would also be different, indicating increasing economic development and what he predicted would be a regional renaissance over the next 30 years.

However, to be truly “the new Europe” would require much deeper political integration for the region as a whole. At the same time, it is important to note that the foundations of the European Union, before the opening of borders and a common political framework, were based on economic development and win-win cooperation.

In the same vein, a successful thawing of relations between Turkey and Syria in the direction of mutual cooperation and common security, in the context of deeper cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, could lead to the end result of a politically integrated Middle East. With the backing of major powers like China and Russia, which have a comprehensive strategic partnership rooted in respect for international law, this is an achievable goal despite all ideological and religious differences.

One thing leading to another, we say. And greater development, security and trade cooperation can lay the foundations for a more closely integrated Middle East. It may even lead to MBS’s dream of a regional renaissance, long plagued by conflicts stoked by outsiders, who seek only to plunder the heritage and bountiful resources of Middle Eastern nations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Leave a Comment