Turkey is pursuing a transparent policy in Syria and aims to see an end to the eight-year war while attaching great importance to the territorial integrity of the country. Speaking at a conference titled "Changes in the International System and Turkish Foreign Policy" at TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey has been working with various groups in Syria to provide a solution to the crisis and underlined that they are also willing to work with Turkey.
"The reason for that is Turkey does not follow any secret agenda and that Turkey is the most sensitive country [when it comes to] the issue of territorial and border integrity of the country," Çavuşoğlu said. He pointed out that Ankara actively takes part in efforts to restore peace in the region, stressing that Turkey has fought against various terrorist groups including Daesh, the PKK and its Syrian affiliate the People's Protection Units (YPG) with ground troops in the field. The presence of the YPG has been a grave concern for Turkey. Officials from Ankara stress that the U.S. has to pay heed to Ankara's legitimate concerns. The U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria has prompted various reactions from different countries. Some have voiced their concerns over the decision, claiming that a move might be risky considering the remnants of Daesh within Syria could regroup.
However, Trump has repeatedly said that they will implement the withdrawal decision and there is no reason to stay in Syria as the fight against Daesh is over.
Welcoming the decision, Turkey has also stressed that following the U.S. withdrawal, a safe zone in northern Syria should be formed that is free from terrorists and should be under the control of Turkey.
In relation to the recent developments in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated in a televised interview on Tuesday that a safe zone in Syria must be controlled by Turkey, saying Ankara cannot consign a region to an entity that poses a threat to Turkey, referring to the YPG.
About the withdrawal of American troops from the devastated country, Erdoğan said that the majority of American troops would withdraw from the region, noting the possibility of a total of 200 or 400 troops, or a total of 500 troops from the U.S.-led coalition forces, may stay. Emphasizing Ankara's sensitivity toward Syria's territorial integrity, Erdoğan stressed that "a solution to the Syria crisis cannot be solved without Turkey."
Meanwhile, some countries have been against the U.S. decision to withdraw and they also have failed to recognize Turkey's concerns expressing support for the YPG, claiming that they were efficient in the fight against Daesh. Speaking at a press conference on the issue France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that Paris would support Washington's plans for U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria and to allow some American troops to withdraw from the country.
"We believe that it's absolutely desirable that we stay on the side of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), those who worked hard in the fight against the Islamic State [Daesh] group, making considerable sacrifices. Therefore, the American decision [to keep military forces in Syria] is a good thing," Le Drian noted.
While the Syrian conflict has affected the lives of many civilians, the actors on the ground do not appear to have plans in place to put an end to the war and enable the return of displaced people. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jonathan Cohen called on the Syrian regime and Russia on Tuesday to facilitate a new humanitarian convoy to the Rukban refugee camp along the border with Jordan by the end of March. The camp, located in a remote area of the Syrian desert near the Jordanian border, is home to some 60,000 refugees living under harsh conditions.
"If they have the will, those two parties can ensure regular United Nations assistance so long as there are vulnerable people at Rukban. The United States insists that any process for the departure of internally displaced persons from Rubkan must be planned in coordination with the United Nations," Coh
en said addressing the second session of a high-level segment of the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR). "Those who wish to return must be provided with information about departure options and the security situation in the places where they intend to go. Guarantees against arbitrary arrest and detention must be made, and any conscription requirements for returnees must be explained," he added. Issuing a joint statement yesterday, Russia and the Bashar Assad regime called on U.S. forces to leave Syria and to allow people inside a refugee camp to be evacuated by Russian and Syrian forces. According to a statement released by the Russian Defense Ministry yesterday, it is stated that Russian and regime forces had prepared buses to relocate refugees at a camp in the Rukban area and would guarantee them safe passage in a bid to provide them living spaces.
"We also call on the United States, whose military units are on Syrian territory illegally, to leave the country," the joint statement noted.
Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it would open two "humanitarian corridors" near Jleighem and Jebel al-Gurab settlements, with the help of the U.N., to "allow Syrian refugees to leave voluntarily for places of residence they choose."
Commenting on the latest developments in Syria, Cohen said it is unacceptable that the Assad regime is regularly hindering humanitarian access for the U.N. and its partners. "When civilians cannot count on the regime and its allies, it is clear that conditions for the return of internally displaced persons do not exist and the time is not ripe for reconstruction assistance in regime-held areas."
Cohen added that the U.S. will keep working with its coalition partners to stabilize the situation in those areas in northeast Syria once held by terrorist organization Daesh. Speaking wider about Syria's northwestern Idlib province, Cohen called on the related parties to uphold the cease-fire as part of the Sochi agreement aimed at protecting the 3 million civilians in the region. The Sochi agreement was reached on Sept. 17 by Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to the agreement the cease-fire in the Idlib region would be preserved, with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region. Prior to the agreement, the Assad regime was signaling a grand operation toward Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the opposition, sparking deep fears in the international community of a new humanitarian crisis.
Despite the Sochi agreement to preserve the cease-fire, regime forces continue to violate the deal by intensifying attacks on civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians, who forced to leave their homes are waiting for the bombardment to stop as soon as possible. Speaking to the Anadolu Agency (AA), Mohammed Hallac, the director of the Syrian Intervention Coordinators, said that this month almost 94,000 civilians fled from Idlib due to the attacks carried out by the regime forces. He added that this wave of migration will continue as the attacks are continuing.