In a press release on Nov 27 the Turkish National Security Council (MGK) said it would not allow an American “fait accompli” in Syria, without naming but clearly pointing at it. Slamming the cooperation of “some countries” with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syria wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the written statement said that Turkey would not hesitate to exercise its right of self-defense in the face of threats against its national security. The meeting and the statement came after the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has decided to set up 12 observation points along Syria’s border with Turkey, in collaboration with the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) with YPG being its main body.
In earlier hours, before chairing the five-hour meeting, President Tayyip Erdoğan had slammed the US-PKK cooperation tried to be justified by the “diminishing presence” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), or DAESH in Arabic initials, saying it has been Turkey to hit the most effective blows to the terrorist organization and has all the preparations to finish it off if fully cooperated. He had added that the government would take most important decisions in the MGK meeting.
Erdoğan had said last week that he was not impressed much by the American governments announcing rewards for informants to help the arrest of three notorious chiefs of the PKK based in the Kandil Mountains in Iraq, by the Turkish and Iranian borders. Erdoğan said it was a deep contradiction to announce rewards for the PKK chiefs and collaborate with their extensions.
There are three important details in the MGK press release. The first is the mention of the tolerance shown by “some countries” to the “terrorist FETÖ”, the illegal network of the U.S. based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding the 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey; that is a clear reference to the U.S. Secondly, there is a reference to the four party meeting held in Istanbul recently between the head of states of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany. The statement says “the biggest threat to the Syria peace now” was coming from the “East of Euphrates” river, which also point at to the US-YPG collaboration thus implying that it was the U.S. who tries to undermine the peace options in Syria. The third is a reference to the tension in the East Mediterranean over oil and gas projects around Cyprus, ignoring Turkish Cypriot rights; in the release it is said that no development against Turkish and Turkish Cypriot interests would be allowed. It might be considered as a demonstration of Ankara’s determination recalling the 1974 Cyprus operation, despite American will.
The timing of the meeting and the statement is interesting, too. It takes place in the middle of another major tension in Turkey’s neighborhood: the Russian-Ukraine crisis in the Black Sea. Turkey has full allegiance to NATO’s policy and asks Russia not to show aggression to Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was ready to pay all efforts to mediate between its two northern neighbors. On the other hand the recent Ukraine crisis broke after Erdoğan has hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Istanbul for the last stage of the “Turkish Stream”, another gas pipeline between Russia and Turkey, by-passing Ukraine. Perhaps no need to mention Turkey’s close cooperation with Russia in Syria.
The meeting was held right before Erdoğan’s departure for Buenos Aires to join the G20 summit there on Nov 30-Dec 1. Erdoğan is one of a handful of leaders who is scheduled to meet with Trump, along with leaders of Russia, China, Japan and Germany. Turkish media particularly highlighted the detail that Trump would not meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is informally accused of giving the orders for murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.
Nevertheless, the Turkish National Security Council statement show that the rift between two NATO allies, Turkey and the U.S. deepens in Syria.