First, there was the killing of eight of our soldiers in Idlib, then an earthquake in Elazığ, an avalanche in Van and – to top it all off – an airplane accident. Turkey has been rocked by several very unfortunate shocks, all in quick succession. The U.S. has led other countries in sending messages of condolences to Turkey.
Over the last five days, officials from across multiple U.S. government agencies have supported and congratulated Turkey for its campaign in Idlib. Certainly, it is more important that this backing is focused on action, rather than statements alone, but these sincere expressions of support by the West to Turkey are nonetheless essential. In the recently held Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) panel, which concerned the recent occurrences in Idlib, Dr. Valid Tamer, president of the Northern Free Doctors Union, who participated in the program live from Idlib, spoke about the humanitarian crisis facing the region. He said: "I cannot find a single word to describe the suffering of our people, whether from bombings or a slow death." In light of Tamer's comments, how is it possible for innocent people to overcome situations that we cannot even bear to hear about?
While Turkey's stance of giving time to the Bashar Assad regime until the end of February and this weekend's negotiations between the Turkish and Russian authorities may be regarded as a glimmer of hope, there is definitely some stalling in Syria. James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, whom we know well and have hosted on many THO programs, stated that the Syrian army and Russian fighter aircraft had carried out 200 airstrikes on Idlib and that 700,000 displaced people had already fled to the Turkish border, saying: "This situation could cause an international crisis."
So what are the solutions proposed for Idlib? First, it has been proposed that the U.S. and Turkey work more closely; second, international public support for Turkey's cease-fire efforts must be matched with action; action should be taken to protect civilians and halt bombing by Russia and regime forces, removing them from the region; and a U.N. led political process, considering Syria's political unity and territorial integrity (Resolution 2254), should be implemented.
The young hopeful taking a stand
* President of the Turkish Heritage Organization and a 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient