Zaman – 27.7.2013 – If the settlement process Turkey is conducting with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to put an end to terrorism in the country advances positively, Turkey should have no concerns over the possible establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria.
If the settlement process Turkey is conducting with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to put an end to terrorism in the country advances positively, Turkey should have no concerns over the possible establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria, analysts agreed.
In such scenario, the region would be controlled by the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD,) a PKK offshoot.
“If the Turkish government feels the settlement process is going positively, it will also be able to develop good relations with the PYD and not see it as a threat. Turkey should not take any different stance with the PYD than the one it has for the PKK,” Serhat Erkmen, an associate professor at Kırşehir’s Ahi Evran University, said in a phone interview with Today’s Zaman on Friday. “Turkey’s position vis-à-vis the PYD should be no different from its position towards the settlement process,” said Erkmen, who is also a researcher at the Center for the Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).
The plans recently announced by the PYD to create an autonomous region in northwestern Syria has set off alarm bells in Turkey, which fears such a plan could embolden the PKK, by legitimizing it and providing a new base for it. The PYD has recently captured the Ras al-Ain district in Syria, following days of fierce clashes with several radical groups fighting to oust embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
There has been de-facto Kurdish autonomy since last summer. Observers say that Kurdish gains in Syria would be an important step in realizing long-term Kurdish plans to establish a Kurdish state in the Middle East.
The Turkish government interpreted the capture of Ras al-Ain by the PYD as an ill-intentioned initiative aimed at exploiting the power vacuum in the northern part of the country at a time when clashes between the opposition and regime forces in and around the city of Homs are becoming more intense.
Noting that the situation in Syria is already highly fragile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned that “any fait accompli [in Syria] would just serve to further deepen the fragility there and result in negative consequences.” Some give the example of the strategic relations Turkey has developed with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) government in northern Iraq after years of hostility in a response to counter Turkish fears about the PYD’s expected autonomy. Turkey provided the KDP-ruled Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) an opportunity to export its gas from the Mediterranean, as the KRG is providing cheap energy resources.
Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, a Middle East expert who specializes in Kurdish politics and is also an advisor for ORSAM, estimated that the economic requirements of a Syrian Kurdish autonomous region would also be an important factor in pushing the would-be Syrian autonomous region to have good relations with Turkey.
“A small Kurdish autonomous region would need good relations with either Turkey or a future Syrian government for a stable economic situation, since it is landlocked — bordering Turkey and bordering a KDP-controlled border,” noted Wilgenburg, in remarks to Today’s Zaman. “There is a possibility that this would lead to better relations, or it could result in problems again. It depends on whether Turkey will use economic policies, or focus on security policies again,” Wilgenburg said.
The PYD is reportedly advancing towards the al-Yaroubiyeh border gate, Syria’s border gate to Iraq’s Mosul, which is now under the control of radical al-Qaeda affiliated groups. Analysts say that such a move by the PYD is aimed at taking the oil regions from the hands of al-Qaeda. Erkmen described the advance of PYD forces to this region as a move to “finance a Kurdish state that will appear in the future.”
If the newly established region has no access to the sea, it is highly probable they will be dependent on Turkey for exports, which will lead them to develop economic relations. PYD leader Saleh Muslim’s visit to Turkey on Thursday for talks with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and Turkish officials was seen as a pragmatic move by the movement to maintain good ties with Turkey.