November 4, 2018 / 07:29 AM
Turkey seeking to colonize northern Syria, analyst tells Kurdpress

The head of the Geostrategic Observatory of the Middle East (GEOPAME) told Kurdpress in an interview that Turkey is not seeking to annex Syrian northern Kurdish regions to Turkey but is planning to turn it into a Gaza Strip in Palestine.

Dr Nicos Panayiotides, also a journalist and assistant professor of political studies at American College in Nicosia, and a Research Associate at the Center for Oriental Studies (Panteion University), believes Kurds should not expect a pleasing future as long as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan governs Turkey.

He further added that the U.S. cannot stay irreconcilable for long and would have no other choice but to take side in the tension between Ankara and the Syrian Kurds.

What follows is his full answers to Kurdpress questions;

Erdogan says there will be another war on Kurds in Eastern Euphrates, will he impose the new war in Kurdish territories in Syria?

Erdogan’s strategic goal was to eradicate what he regards as a threat to Turkish national security from Kurdish actions in Northern Syria. In this regard, the Turkish operation “Olive Branch” in January that resulted in the capture of Afrin in March almost accomplished his goal. However, as we have seen recently he started bombing areas East of Euphrates. Erdogan argued that the so called “ Manbij agreement” was not implemented and YPG has still presence in the city. However, the Turkish attack raises the risks for all actors since there are 2000 American soldiers in the region collaborating with YPG and SDF in their fight against the remnants of Islamic State. According to my opinion US cannot pursue irreconcilable and incompatible goals for long and has to take sides. More specifically it cannot maintain military presence there in an effort to defeat ISIS –with the help of the Kurds- and eliminating Iranian influence, while at the same time promoting Turkish interests.

Some believe that the new Erdogan threats are in line with the upcoming elections in Turkey and he plans to drive the Nationalist forces, is it true?

Definitely, Erdogan is allied with an ultranationalist and anti-Kurdish party the MHP (People’s alliance). However, I do not consider this the primary motivating factor behind his actions. Turkey suffers from the “Serves Syndrome” and accordingly as long there are not any regional or systemic constrains on its actions it will continue its expansive policies in the region. As I said it views Kurdish actions (their effort to connect the three cantons) in Northern Syria as hostile to its national interests-security and is ready to use force to protect them.

PKK is silent these days, why?

I do not have any concrete information on this. I think the PKK is trying to redefine its strategy in the light of the cataclysmic events in a region torn apart by turmoil and strategic instability. The previous March Turkey launched military operations against PKK in Northern Iraq, while the situation of the Kurds in Northern Syria and the recent bombings against them by the Turkish army is well known to the wider public.

Russia seems to has changed its policy regarding Syrian Kurds, stating that the Kurds are trying to divide Syria to create a semi-state, and U.S aids them. Why?

From the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War Russia under Vladimir Putin acted absolutely in accordance with the Russian raison d-etat. Let’s remind some incidents: It put multiple veto to the Security Council in favor of Bashar al Assad, it intervened in September 2015 in Syria and changed the local balance of power in favor of Assad. In addition to this, it mended its ties with Turkey despite their strained relations due of the downing of a Russian Jet by Turkey in November 2015. Accordingly it will continue to act having in mind the promotion of its geostrategic interests. Lets be more specific. The YPG is the friend of its enemy (US) as regards Syria. Russia is objecting any plans that might stipulate the division of Syria because this might threaten its geostrategic interests there (e.g. Russian bases in Syria) and promote the American influence in the region. The motives behind the actions and the involvement of the Great Powers in the Middle East are deeply geopolitical.

Some say that Turkey wants to annex Syrian territories, like Afrin and Al bab and other places, is it possible?

I disagree with this position. It does not serve Ankara’s interests any annexation of these territories, rather it undermines them, since it will create clashing dynamics with the interests of many other regional actors such as  Russia, Syria, the Kurds. What Ankara might do is to create a neocolonial relationship with these regions in a sense similar with that of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank). As it is well kwon Ankara has established some universities in Northern Syria and plans to open some other in the town of al -Bab.However the situation –compared to Israel/Palestine paradigm- is very different regarding Syria and therefore according to my opinion when the Syrian Conflict will be settled- in Assad’s advantage as developments show- the status of this areas must be clarified.

How do you predict the situation of the Kurds in Turkey in a near future?

With the leadership of Tayip Erdogan I am not optimistic.  As you may remember in 2013 he started talks with the PKK, though the peace process fully collapsed in 2015. The upcoming events showed that all were mere tactics in order to “sell” to European Union and to international public opinion the image of moderate islamist leader. His strategy supported his intentions to reduce the power of the Kemalic establishment (army, the NSC, the judiciary and generally the deep state). I think that the situation of the Kurds in Turkey will move to similar with the past directions with sporadic acts of violence and counter violence in Southeast Turkey.

Reporter’s code: 40101