Turkey calls for both the United States and Russia to pull their troops out of Syria. This call for peace came in the wake of comments made by the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and United States President, Donald Trump, during the Asia-Pacific Summit in Vietnam. When discussing the ongoing conflict within Syria both leaders stated that the conflict had “no Military solution,” thus calling into question the reason for both nations continued military presence within the region.
The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke about attempts for the United States and Russia to withdraw if military action was no longer a feasible solution, stating that “If a military solution [in Syria] is out of the question, then those who say this [Russia and the US] should pull their troops out … and steps for a political solution should be taken.” However, Rory Challands of Al Jazeera News brought into question Turkeys reasons for calling for peace, bringing up Turkeys troubled history within the region and most notably one of the most recent current forces that are currently fighting within the region. He remarked that “The Turks are also concerned about their perennial problem – the Kurds.”
While withdrawing military forces from the region is an undertaking that should be worked towards, if both superpowers were to remove their armed forces from a region already in turmoil from multiple factions it will accomplish little, unless other forces are prepared to cease hostilities and focus their efforts on coming to the table to find a mutually pleasing solution. Such attempts are already being attempted. In Sochi, the Russian President will be meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in order to discuss the Syrian conflict and reduce violence within the region. Similar talks are being held in Kazakh, capital of Astana, with regional groups in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.
The conflict within Syria has been ongoing since early 2011, with Turkey being among the nations that has gone in alongside Russia and the United States in order to resolve the issue. However, complicating matters within the region is Turkeys relationship with both the YPG forces and Russia. The YPG, dubbed the Peoples Protection Units, are primarily a Kurdish Militia that acts as the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party in Syria. Turkey has a troubled history with the Kurdish people, owing to the armed conflicts with Kurdish insurgent groups wanting autonomy from Turkey in order to create their own state. Further complicating matters is the United States’ continued support of the YPG, which no doubt has impacted negatively upon Turkeys view of the superpower. Russia, by contrast, is already in a troubled relationship with Turkey after a Russian aircraft was shot down over Southern Turkey two years prior. But, Russia is also a known backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom Turkey is opposing with their continued support of a number of rebel groups: most notably, the Free Syrian Army.
Both the United States and Russia should not underestimate the role they can play in guiding Syria and other actors currently locked in conflict towards a peaceful resolution. The superpowers should be able to offer their support not just militarily but also as mediators between the conflicting groups within the Syrian region. All current attempts at talking about the conflict mark a commendable first step. But if foreign powers outside of Syria wish for a peaceful solution, and military solutions are no longer considered to be viable, a more conscious effort must be taken to bring those they support together if an armistice is to be realized.
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