‘Ankara should negotiate with Assad to prevent northern Syria belt’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad during happier times in 2011, (c) AFP

A prominent pro-government columnist has said Turkey should negotiate with the Bashar al-Assad government to stop the formation of a PKK corridor in northern Syria.

Writing in his column in the staunchly pro-AKP daily Yeni Safak, Ibrahim Karagul, also the general director of TVNET, a pro-government channel, said Syria’s sovereignty needed to protected.

“If necessary Damascus should monitor these areas (in northern Syria). Turkey prefers the Syrian government over the PKK. Maybe some people will angered with me saying this but if necessary [Ankara] should negotiate with Damascus to secure this belt.”

Karagul also warned that a corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean through Syria was the greatest threat to Turkey, adding, “This would be a threat to Turkey not just today but for years to come. The formation of that corridor would begin the process of Turkey’s fragmentation. It would become a front for the war against our country.”

The nationalist writer also said that all foreign forces in the area needed to be ousted, including the USA and PKK, leaving the Syrian government as the only legitimate power.

Turkish officials, including President Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have also spoken of “preventing a Kurdish corridor, no matter what,” in Syria, with fears that it would embolden the 15 million or so Kurds’ in their demand for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.

All the major forces involved in the Syrian crisis have amassed in the area between al-Bab and Manbij in northern Syria recently, with sporadic clashes between different groups occurring on a daily basis.

The US administration’s choice of conducting the Raqqa operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara views as a “terrorist group”, has left Turkish officials disappointed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Moscow today to meet with counterpart Vladimir Putin and it is expected that discussions will be centred on Syria.

Meanwhile attacks by Turkish soldiers and Euphrates Shield forces have left at least 12 Syrian government soldiers dead in western Manbij in the past 36 hours; a development that is unlikely to go down well in Moscow.

The Turkish government had excellent ties with Damascus until 2012, even holding joint cabinet meetings, before Ankara began hosting Syria’s opposition groups and demanding al-Assad step down as president.