Syrian crisis: Impact on Turkey - From mediation to crisis management

03-04-2017

After decades of mistrust between Ankara and Damascus, a solid partnership emerged in the 2000s. Turkey considered Syria to be the key to its influence in the Middle East. However, when protests started in 2011, the Turkish authorities launched repeated attempts at mediation, without success, leading to clear hostility on the part of the Turkish leadership towards the Syrian president. The Turkish objectives for Syria are several: settling the conflict, ensuring that the future arrangement excludes President Assad, creating a safe zone along the Turkish border and avoiding autonomy for Kurds in Syria. This led to military intervention to secure the borders in 2015, and a recent partnership with Russia and Iran in order to find a peace settlement, even if the three patrons of the recent Astana talks have diverging views about the future. For Turkey, Syria is an international problem but also an internal one, as it has been hit by deadly terrorist attacks by the Kurdish PKK and ISIL/Da'esh in the past two years. Another dimension of the Syrian issue for Ankara is the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey: with more than 3 million people making Turkey the country with the largest refugee population in the world. In December 2015, the EU signed a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, and the EU began to deliver a major €6 billion package to help Turkey cope with the crisis.

After decades of mistrust between Ankara and Damascus, a solid partnership emerged in the 2000s. Turkey considered Syria to be the key to its influence in the Middle East. However, when protests started in 2011, the Turkish authorities launched repeated attempts at mediation, without success, leading to clear hostility on the part of the Turkish leadership towards the Syrian president. The Turkish objectives for Syria are several: settling the conflict, ensuring that the future arrangement excludes President Assad, creating a safe zone along the Turkish border and avoiding autonomy for Kurds in Syria. This led to military intervention to secure the borders in 2015, and a recent partnership with Russia and Iran in order to find a peace settlement, even if the three patrons of the recent Astana talks have diverging views about the future. For Turkey, Syria is an international problem but also an internal one, as it has been hit by deadly terrorist attacks by the Kurdish PKK and ISIL/Da'esh in the past two years. Another dimension of the Syrian issue for Ankara is the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey: with more than 3 million people making Turkey the country with the largest refugee population in the world. In December 2015, the EU signed a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, and the EU began to deliver a major €6 billion package to help Turkey cope with the crisis.