Ankara hosted the crucial fifth trilateral summit of the Astana process this week, at a time when preparations for the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria are also underway.
The summit's joint declaration touched upon several key issues and among them came to the forefront – Turkey's determination to form a safe zone in northern Syria, regardless of U.S. support.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would no longer delay on the safe zone, which it feels is a necessity as well as a popular demand of both the public and experts.
He will attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, and discuss the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Ankara clearly expects action and finds Washington's current policy of delaying the process unsustainable.
It has already finished the technical, operational and military groundwork for the safe zone. Besides, Ankara also has the necessary international backing, including that of the two key actors in Syria – Russia and Iran, as apparent in Monday's trilateral summit.
In other words, the two guarantor countries clearly understand that Turkey will neither accept another refugee wave nor ignore the presence of a terrorist group in a divided Syria and that Turkey's national security concerns are not open to debate.
Besides, maybe the most striking article of the joint declaration was the article that rejected "illegitimate self-governance attempts in Syria, all initiatives to create new realities on the ground under the guise of fighting terrorism," by standing against separatist agendas threatening national security.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he did not doubt the three countries' decisiveness in terms of Syria's territorial integrity and unitary structure. "We all are against foreign intervention in Syria. The U.S., on the other side, has supported terrorists in Syria and has tried to divide the country," he said, pointing clearly to the U.S. support for the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG).
The U.S., since the Obama administration, sees the PKK/YPG as its proxy in the power war in Syria. Washington has openly expressed its does not insist on the territorial integrity and unitary structure of northern Syria, which covers almost one-fourth of the countries territory.
The U.S. has also legitimated YPG's land grabbing on the grounds of being "the strongest ally in the fight against Daesh" and has ignored the rightful concerns of a key ally, Turkey.
The contradiction between Washington's words and actions has continued ever since. Meanwhile, the U.S. has tried to not come across Russia and Turkey in Syria even, in a de-facto way until today, have come from the Obama administration till today. Thanks to Trump's open political dialogue, it is at least known that contrasting with Pentagon and State Department, the White House officials do not intend to take further risks for itself in Syria. The folks in White House might be asking this question now: Coming to the end of the fight against Daesh, do these risks worth to continue to support another terrorist organization, namely YPG on the ground? Now this question will push the U.S. to decide upon this issue soon.
In contrast to Washington's dilemma, the three guarantors of the political solution in Syria – Iran, Russia and Turkey –have maybe covered the most ground in nine years with the establishment of the constitutional committee, protecting the country's territorial integrity and its unitary structure.
While all complications are eliminated regarding the creation of the committee at this point, a consensus has been reached that will to some extent lift the gloomy situation in Idlib.
After the latest summit in Ankara, it seems Idlib can expect a ray of hope. Now, the return of 3.6 million Syrians, who have been in Turkey for eight years is not an unlikely scenario anymore.
At least a significant consensus and will has been displayed in this manner. Within this picture, Turkey will take action unless Washington takes steps regarding the safe zone that will ensure the return of Syrians to their home country.
On the other hand, the resistance of Bashar Assad in an operation supported by Russia and Iran, on the other hand, is not even a possibility. Since the fact that the Damascus administration has sent a mail to the U.N. General Secretary, complaining about the PKK and its affiliates YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) being terrorist organizations with which it has not been in conflict but has been in close contact from time to time, coincides with the current developments.
In light of all these developments, everyone is looking forward to the Erdoğan-Trump meeting in New York in upcoming days. Continuing cooperation with the PKK and its affiliates does not seem like a feasible option for Washington and especially not for a politician like Trump. We will not wait long in order to see the results of the two leaders' meeting.
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