Erdoğan: Russia wants to form boutique state in Latakia, Syria
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULJan 13, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Jan 13, 2016 12:00 am
Claiming that Russia is not fighting Daesh, Erdoğan said Moscow wants to form a boutique state in Syria for his ally Bashar Assad and warned of Iran inflaming sectarian tensions in the region
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech to ambassadors at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Tuesday that Russia is not waging a war against Daesh in Syria and paves the way of the establishment of a boutique Syrian state in and around Latakia. Erdoğan said: "Russia is not in the fight against Daesh, it is not giving a struggle against Daesh. On the contrary, Russia is currently preparing a place for itself with efforts to form a boutique Syrian state in Latakia and surrounding region and is continuously striking our Turkmen brothers." The president constantly reiterates his criticism of Russia's involvement in Syria, saying Moscow uses the anti-Daesh fight as a pretext.
On Friday he said: "Russia says: 'We are in Syria because the Syrian government has asked us to be there.' The Syrian government is not a legitimate government. Russia does not have to go into any country that calls them. Why did you invade Ukraine? They can ask. Russia does not fight against Daesh."
He said that an important point is to stop coalition forces, notably the U.S., through unfair, "oppression-based" attacks by Russia, and indicated that Turkey continues its efforts to prevent this in national and international meetings.
Turkmens are a Turkic ethnic group mainly in Turkmenistan, but also present in Syria and Iraq, where they live alongside large Arab and Kurdish populations. The Turkmen community, which includes both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, shares some cultural ties with Turks. After the emergence of the Syrian uprising in 2011 and the civil war that ensued, the Turkmens have sided with moderate opposition forces in opposition to regime forces.
For this reason, the Turkmen-populated Bayrbucak region has been targeted with airstrikes by the Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, backed by Russian support, since mid-November. For almost three months, more than 40,000 people have been displaced after airstrikes and forced to migrate to safe zones around Idlib and Latakia. Yet, despite being heavily besieged by Syrian and Russian forces, Turkmens try to defend their communities.
Russia launched air operations in Syria on Sept. 30 after receiving parliamentary approval. The Kremlin claimed the airstrikes, which followed a military buildup in Syria, aimed to support forces loyal to Assad, a long-standing Russian ally, against Daesh. However, Turkey and the West have accused Russia of targeting moderate fighters opposed to Assad, many of which are supported by Turkey and the U.S.
Another threat for Syrian Turkmens is the Kremlin-backed PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG), as it has been accused of having an expansionist policy in northern Syria in an attempt to connect the Kobani canton with Afrin. Sources say that in order to achieve this, the PYD needs to control the area between Jarabulus and Azaz, which has about 400,000 Turkmens. Turkmen officials say that the PYD is aiming to enter Jarabulus after recently seizing the Tishrin Dam from Daesh.
"It has already been documented previously by international reports that the PYD has committed war crimes and violated human rights. They will do the same on the Azaz-Jarabulus line. We have to defend our lands at all costs," Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly said on Dec. 29.
Iran fuels sectarian tensions in region
Regarding the latest rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Erdoğan said that Tehran wants to light the fuse of a dangerous process. He said: "With its attitude that turns sectarian dissidences into conflicts, Iran wants to ignite the wick of a new and dangerous process. Iran intendedly straining its ties with Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries is part of this strategy."
Tensions have escalated between Riyadh and Tehran after Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, 56. After the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashad were set on fire in demonstrations, Saudi Arabia and several other Sunni countries decided to cut ties with Iran.
Speaking last Wednesday at the 18th gathering of village headmen at the Presidential Palace, Erdoğan said Saudi Arabia's decision to execute 47 people convicted of terrorism was a matter of internal affairs and warned against its exploitation for sectarian reasons.
"The decision made in Saudi Arabia is an internal judicial matter, in my opinion. This decision had already been made and Saudi Arabia took this step based on that decision. Whether I approve of it or not is a different matter," Erdoğan said, adding that the world has kept silent on the executions of thousands of other people and Assad's killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Syria.