Radio Sputnik discussed Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish militia in Syria’s Afrin District with Ilter Turan, professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey and President of the International Political Science Association.
The Olive Branch operation began on Saturday with over seventy Turkish warplanes conducting airstrikes and hitting over one hundred targets. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has condemned the military action and accused Ankara of violating its sovereignty.
Sputnik: Turkey’s former foreign minister Yasar Yakıs has said that Turkey would not have launched the military campaign if Washington had stopped supporting Kurdish militias as promised. Do you think that the United States has provoked Turkey’s military operation by supporting the Kurds?
Ilter Turan: I think the United States has ignored Turkish concerns totally. Therefore it has forced Turkey to take measures since the Turkish concerns were not addressed at all by the American troops that were operating in Syria, and [because of] the position of the American government that the YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) was not connected with the PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which Turkey and the world recognizes as a terrorist organization.
Sputnik: We thought that this particular conflict in Syria was coming to an end, now obviously it is further exacerbating. Do you think that there is a risk of an ethnic war in the region?
Ilter Turan: We may look at it in a different way. I think why not the avalanche that threatened domestic peace in Turkey and the regional peace in the area was this YPG which has turned into an instrument of American politics, and it has also […] activities of changing the ethnic composition of the area and making it rather difficult for the original residents to come back and reestablish their residents there. So Turkish intervention, in the long run, may be looked upon as an action that contributed positively to the reconstruction of peace.
Smoke rises from the Syria’s Afrin region, as it is pictured from near the Turkish town of Hassa, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 20, 2018
Sputnik: What is your particular take on [speculation] that this is a temporary situation with regard to Turkey’s advance into Syria. How likely is Turkey to expand this military operation toward the Syrian Kurdish regions?
Ilter Turan: The President [of Turkey] has made some announcements of a broader possibility but I think it would be premature to speculate on that before the operation in Afrin is successfully concluded.
Sputnik: In your view, will the Turkish proposed safe zone around Afrin help ensure that Turkey achieves its goals?
Ilter Turan: Turkey cannot achieve its goals by itself, it has to cooperate with others, and at some point I think Turkish government will have to talk with the Syrian government to assure that the arrangement after Turkey withdraws will be one that the Syrian government will be able to preserve and not pose a threat to Turkey.