carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

TURKEY, SYRIA: Former enemies find common ground on Kurdish rebels

Assad Erdogan

Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and an American ally, appears to be developing a synchronized security strategy with Syria, a partner of Iran and the Shiite militia Hezbollah, in a development that is likely to increase Western anxieties over Turkey's shift eastward.

Just a decade after Turkey and Syria nearly went to war over Syrian support for Kurdish militants, the two neighbors are working together to stamp out the most powerful rebel Kurd group, the Kurdish Workers Party, known by the Turkish acronym PKK.

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Damascus to discuss a joint Syrian-Turkish security crackdown on the PKK, which maintains a strong presence in northern Syrian and southeastern Turkey. The Turkish press also reported on efforts to step up cooperation with Iraq and Iran in an effort to wipe out the PKK completely.

Even Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed surprise at the speed with which Turkish-Syrian relations have improved, according to an official Syrian report based on an interview the president gave last week to Arabic-language Turkish channel TRT TV.

"There is very great momentum and acceleration … so we can say that yes, we expected this, but we're very glad that the time was less than expected," Assad said.

Back in July, Turkish media reported that Syria had arrested over 400 Kurds thought to have links to the PKK, which is on both the American and European Union's list of terrorist organizations.

The PKK has been officially maintaining a unilateral cease-fire since September, but the Turkish government says it will continue operations against the group. Doing so requires extending a Turkish parliamentary mandate to continue cross-border raids on PKK sites in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, a strategy that has caused tension between Turkey and the semi-autonomous government in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The ancestral homeland of the Kurds stretches from southeast Turkey through Syria and Iraq to northwest Iran. Most Kurds consider themselves ethnically distinct from the majority populations of those countries and live with varying degrees of tension with the ruling governments.

The PKK was established in 1978 as a Kurdish nationalist party that drew heavily from revolutionary socialist ideology. From the early 1980s until the late 1990s, Syria allowed the PKK to establish a base of operations in the north of the country, but eventually ended its support for the group under Turkish pressure. Since then, Damascus has become increasingly suspicious of its Kurdish minority, cracking down violently on expressions of Kurdish identity.

Meanwhile, trade, tourism and politics have brought Turkey and Syria even closer. The two countries have signed a number of trade agreements, done away with visa requirements, and have both been known to seek political gains by playing East and West against each other.

Assad has credited Turkey's support for Syria despite Western hostility for the rapprochement, in addition to historical and cultural ties.

Turkey, which has long sought membership in the European Union, also benefits from showing the West that it can find other friends, thank you very much. A recent article in the Israeli press voiced anxieties over Turkey's ties with China and Iran, two allies of Syria.

"When a number of countries were attempting to isolate Syria … most of these countries were participating in this isolation in fear of or in compliance with external pressure … but Turkey maintained [steady relations with Syria]," Assad told TRT.

"We move towards any people that proved their independence and motivated their state to be independent like the Turkish people," he added. "I believe that these are the main factors that led to this fast launch in relations."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Damascus on Monday. Credit: Syrian Arab News Agency

Comments () | Archives (12)

Man, there so much hate in that region, what a sad and mess region. everyone want to dominate, control and exterminate each other. sad really.

hi this is Murat from TURKEY. Im looking your articles but I couldnt see any true things. Do you really think that you know Turkey and Syrian decides ? I guess that you just try to think bad things about Turkey. But We dont care about it. finally We will back to our old POWER. You know What I have meant it.... OTTOMAN EMPIRE will back in near time....

Kurds which were known as Medes in ancient time are Indo-Iranians, and they're no fools by getting involved between Turkey and Israel recent love fest!

Kurdish rebels !! kiss my ... when somebody attacks us or israeli citizens, they are terrorists but when it comes to turks attacked by pkk or kurds , they are not terrorists, they are rebels. these terrorists killed over 30.000 innocent people included kids, and also these groups are funded by who ( we know them well ), israeili gov+ eu members which they say they are our allies. we gotta solve our problems with our neighbours instead of getting help form overseas

Where is the aid ship for the Kurds?

The Kurds are indigenous people whose existence in that part of the world has been documented by Xenofon and other ancient Greeks dating back 2500-3ooo years. The Turks appeared in the region nearly 2000 years after the first documented Kurdish people. The Turks, as they did with Christians (Greeks, Armenians), Assyrians, Cypriots in northern Cyprus, have attempted to do with the Kurds, i.e. exterminate them.
We know of course that exterminating a while people is not possible and the Turks should learn from history. An eventual Kurdistan is a matter of historical inevitability. While it appears to be unreasonable to ask the Turks to respect human rights and international law, it is even more so to ask the Kurds to stop fighting for their freedom.

so it seems we have a lot of kurdish paper tigers (jaffkurd? dario?)who are reading this article.. well you two paper tigers, let's look at it - since when you ever had a nation state? so you can wipe out turks and arabs if you unite? first wipe your dirty bottom.. you have been provided with the US and Israeli weapons, have been provided with all kinds of shelter, and look what you have - you don't have a dignified existence, not because of anyone but because of your tribal and primitive existence.

how on earth latimes can publish such hatred filled comments is another issue? don't they remember that "same" kurds were the executioner of the armenian refugees in 1915? don't they know that majority of the kurds are religous extremists?

i am not your typical nationalist turk; i am a patriot who recognizes an "anatolian" identity but i can't take this nonsense anymore

As it's already been said, Kurds are the very issue that Syris and Turkey (and Iran as well) have the same attitude to. Thnx for the article ( btw — it gave me some food for thoughts

These two countries so readily support Palestinian terrorism directed at Israel, but when it comes time to deal with Kurdish terrorism, well they take an entirely different point of view--they are ready willing and able to militarily squash the Kurdish freedom fighters. Hypocrites.

turks arabs and any other regional enemy is no match for the Kurds ONLY IF the Kurds unite and west stop providing weapons to enemy of the Kurdish people, no war can be won by weapon, any war is a mental war, you occupy a land and its people But you can never control their mind, in other words AN IDEA thats been forced to sleep in peoples minds, one day will revive, AND scream to them arabs and turks to see the day we Kurds have the power, I swear to my Peshmerge father and grandfathers graves, i swear to Peshmerges and i swear to God himself i mean our great leader Ocalan, We will do to them what the Jews have been doing to arabs, much worse i wish, to wipe out every turk and arab on the planet earth

Please Correct : (PKK) is a KURDISH acronym not turkish. It goes for Partiya Karkerin Kurdistan.

these two losers can never defeat Kurdish people,,if they decide to unite we Kurds will unite with israel against them.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors