Experts: Coalition government will not drastically alter Turkey's Syrian policy

FATIH ŞEMSETTIN IŞIK @semssami
ANKARA
Published 14.06.2015 22:05

As the coalition partners of Turkey's next government still remain uncertain, Turkey's foreign policy in Syria supporting opposition might have only a slight change unless a minority government between parties other than the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is established, some experts say.

The Republic of Turkey's 63rd government, in terms of coalition partners, is still a matter of debate one week after the parliamentary elections and predictably, how Turkey's foreign policy will be shaped is debated as well. The policy that has been followed in Syria since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011, accordingly, has been discussed as to what extent there will be a change.

Turkey is home to Syrian opposition members and repeatedly calls for a new administration in Syria without its current president, Bashar Assad, due to his losing legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian population by killing or displacing them into neighboring countries. Featured among countries harboring Syrian refugees by hosting over 1.8 million of them, Turkey has also continuously expressed its support for a comprehensive international strategy that includes safe and no-fly zones in Syria, along with the training of Syrian rebels.

Experts evaluated Turkey's future attitude to the war in Syria by taking some coalition scenarios and possibilities into account and said unless a minority coalition government is formed between the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with support from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) from outside, a great shift is not expected in the following months.

Ziad Majed, associate professor at the American University of Paris, said depending on to what extent foreign policy will be a domain of compromise between two parties, a likely coalition between the AK Party and MHP will not cause a shift in Turkey's Syria policy. He said: "I think it will depend on the deal between the two parties and the distribution of portfolios in the government. It will also depend on what compromises each side will be making and whether foreign policy will be a domain of compromises. In any case, it is difficult to imagine that there will be no modification, even if it is slight, when it comes to the Turkish Syria policy."

He said that in the event of an AK Party-HDP coalition even more active policy against ISIS might be implemented. "A coalition between the AK Party and the HDP would probably maintain the current Ankara policy, strongly opposed to the Assad regime, but it could combine it with much more aggressive stances and measures against ISIS in order to protect Kurdish groups in the north of Syria from the jihadi threat. From a human rights perspective, such a coalition could also be supportive of Syrian refugees' rights in Turkey," Majed said.Haya Atassi, a political activist from Beirut said despite being unable to form a single-party government, the AK Party is still powerful and a huge rupture in Syria will not be seen. She said: "It is an illusion that the AK Party lost power. Erdoğan is still president and the AK Party is still powerful. It will not be easy for any party to infiltrate the system that has been operating for 13 years and change policies all of a sudden. Yes, there might be changes, but I believe not in the short-term."

However, Atassi suggested that a CHP-MHP coalition with the HDP's outside support will stir up a huge fraction in Syrian policy and restrictions on both those already living in Turkey and who flee to Turkey might be imposed. "We will witness a new era in Turkey, new strategic relations and alliances. Turkey will try its best to minimize its role in Syria, and it might position itself closer to Assad – the same as [Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] el-Sissi did – or like Lebanon, it might want to adopt a more neutral position and isolate itself from the conflict," she said.

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