Erdogan exploits refugees in Syria land-grab

A meeting in Turkish capital Ankara between the Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents failed to reach a breakthrough on what is obviously a planned carve-up of Syria. But a consensus does appear to be emerging on betrayal of the Syrian Kurds. Ankara is promoting a plan to resettle displaced Syrians in a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” stretching across Syria’s north. While the US wants the width of the “safe zone” confined to 10 kilometers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the zone could be expanded to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor—respectively some 100 and 200 kilometers from the Turkish border. Significantly, the city of Raqqa and much of Deir ez-Zor province are controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Erdogan has named a figure of 3 million refugees and displaced persons to be settled within the “safe zone.” (EA Worldview, France24, Reuters)

Just as the Ankara summit opened, Syria’s foreign ministry issued a letter to the United Nations secretary general calling the SDF and its constituent Kurdish militias “separatist terrorist groups backed by the United States”—perfectly echoing the usual official Turkish rhetoric. (Ahval, Sept. 16)

So Erdogan is clearly exploiting Syrian refugees in his design to expunge the Kurdish autonomous zone from northern Syria. And because most of these refugees are Arab, this will exacerbate the threat of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war—which may well be Erdogan’s intention. The fact that Assad appears to be acquiescing in this is pretty good evidence that Kurdish efforts to seek a separate peace with the regime are now definitively dead.

Photo via Ahval