Former FM: Turkey may lose territory if it intervenes militarily in Syria

Former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış has warned that Turkey may risk losing a portion of its own territory should it decide to intervene militarily in Syria amid an intensified military campaign by regime forces backed by Russia.

In an interview with Today’s Zaman, Yakış stated that Turkey may look to occupy the region between Azaz and Jarablus in Syria, which is known as the “Mare Line,” to protect rebels from the opposition but warned that Turkey may very well lose the Hatay province from its territory if things do not pan out the way Ankara expects.


“The world would not accept such interference [by Turkey’s military in Syria]. It would not allow the border to be redrawn unilaterally. What’s more, if the Turkish military faced defeat, Syria might reintroduce the claim that Hatay belongs to Syria,” he explained.

Syria has never approved of the annexation of Hatay by Turkey in 1939, a year after the province declared its independence from Syria and later decided to join Turkey. But Damascus has not pushed the issue forward with any force so as not to harm ties.

Yakış noted that the Turkish military will have to face superior Russian forces if it intervenes in Syria, and he warned that Russia has been waiting for a reason to unleash severe punishment on Turkey since the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber last year.

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] may not invoke Article 5,” he also argued, citing the fact that the aggression would have been instigated by Turkey. Article 5 of the NATO Charter states that an attack on one ally shall be considered to be an attack on all allies. The article was invoked by the US for the first time in October 2001, when NATO determined that the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty.

“Just as with the intervention in Cyprus, the US may leave Turkey alone,” he noted, adding that Russia and some Western states may want to drag Turkey into the conflict in Syria.

Yakış also pointed out that the Arab world would very much oppose a Turkish incursion into an Arab country, and he gave the example of Bashiqa in Iraq to support his view.

The Arab League condemned Turkey’s deployment of troops to the Bashiqa military camp near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq after Ankara decided not to withdraw all its troops from Iraqi territory.

Explaining that the US was opposed to Turkey’s interference even before Russia joined the theater of war in Syria, Yakış said that Washington rejected Turkish proposals to establish a safe zone or no-fly zone in the north of Syria close to the Turkish border “because it would be impossible to establish such a zone and ensure its security during a civil war.”

According to Yakış, Turkish options are more limited now that Russia is involved in the conflict with the approval of Damascus. “They [Russia] would be staunchly opposed to Turkish interference,” he remarked.

“It is guaranteed that Russia will be the main actor in shaping the future of Syria,” he stated.

Yakış said he believes the military is much more reserved about the prospect of entering Syria.

The veteran diplomat also questioned the capability of the Saudi Arabian army, saying that it lacks the capability and experience to wage an effective war in Syria.