Turkey’s Syria Policy and the Kurds: Resisting Temptation


by Şaban Kardaş – August 13, 2012 – Washington


The recent phase of the Syrian uprising has brought mixed blessings to Turkey. The advances of the Syrian opposition over the last few weeks came as a relief to Turkish leaders who have grown tired of criticisms of their Syria policy. Presenting the new situation as the evidence that the endgame is on the horizon, they felt vindicated for their policy of supporting the opposition and cutting off ties with the regime. Recent events involving the Syrian Kurds, however, clouded the air, serving as a stark reminder of the many obstacles still before Turkey’s Syria policy and its decades-old Kurdish problem.

Even if a potential downfall of the regime eventually justifies the Turkish government’s policies, the Kurdish angle will raise additional questions over how Ankara will tackle the security challenges in a post- Bashar al-Assad era.

Kurdish groups have claimed control over several towns along Turkish border from which Syrian government forces have withdrawn in an effort to reinforce their positions against the Free Syrian Army’s offensive in Damascus, Aleppo and other major cities. In addition to the presence of groups supporting the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, in the region, the growing visibility of the biggest Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is seen as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has captured the attention of the Turkish public.

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