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July 23, 2012, Monday

Syria’s problem becoming our problem

As tensions in Syria rose dramatically following a bombing attack on a national security building that killed three senior officials last week, Syrian Kurds took control of several towns near the Turkish border. Most Turkish columnists argue that the Kurdish advance in areas near the Turkish border, and Turkey’s reaction to this advance, will most probably affect developments regarding Turkey’s Kurdish issue.

The civil war in Syria has become Turkey’s main problem, now that Syrian Kurds are running towns near the Kurdish border, says Vatan’s Okay Gönensin. Ankara has repeatedly stated that it sees the Syrian crisis as a struggle for freedom and that Turkey wants to see the establishment of democracy in Syria. It is no surprise that with Syria coming apart at the seams, Syrian Kurds are fighting for their own freedom. Gönensin anticipates that they will seek further political power in post-Bashar al-Assad Syria. Bearing this in mind, the question for Turkey is how to react to this prospect. Although Kurdish groups in Syria have a good relationship with the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, for Turkey they principally represent political movements close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara must support the struggle for freedom of the Syrian Kurds, the columnist argues, given its stated support for a democratic Syria, but this, Gönensin continues, clashes with the “main problem” faced by Turkey: supporting the Syrian Kurds in the face of the Kurdish problem at home.

Fehim Taştekin of Radikal says Syrian Kurds support neither Assad nor the Muslim Brotherhood, as neither party guarantees their autonomy. And this stance, Taştekin claims, signals a possible future conflict between the Kurds and Syrian forces if the Assad regime stays in power, or a conflict between Kurds and Arabs if Assad steps down. What kind of role does Turkey have in such a scenario? Are claims that Ankara has been trying to influence Syrian Kurds through leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani, with whom it pretends to be engaged in a strategic relationship, accurate? There are no certain answers to these questions. What is certain is that developments in northern Syria will directly affect the resolution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey. And what is even more certain is that the PKK will not approach the Turkish state to negotiate until Syria’s future becomes clearer.

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