Relations between Turkey–Syria

Turkey’s approach to the conflict in Syria:

The events that erupted in Syria in March 2011 have transformed into a major conflict, redefining Turkey’s relations with this country and the situation in the region. Sharing a land border of 911 km. with Syria, Turkey has faced serious political, security and humanitarian challenges caused by the conflict.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Turkey has pursued a policy aimed at preserving Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, ending the bloodshed and resolving the conflict through peaceful political transition that would address the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.

Turkey’s contribution to international efforts for a political solution:

The Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 established the parameters for a political transition process in Syria through talks in Geneva between the opposition and the regime under the auspices of the UN (“Geneva Process”).

From the outset of the conflict, Turkey has supported and actively contributed to all international endeavors aiming for a lasting and credible political solution to the conflict in Syria through peaceful means.

Since January 2017, high-level meetings on Syria held in Nur-Sultan (formerly “Astana”) with the participation of the Syrian parties, the guarantor states (Turkey, Russia and Iran) and the UN have achieved considerable progress in reducing violence on the ground, adopting measures to build confidence between the conflicting parties and revitalizing the political process. In addition to regular “Astana-format” meetings, the guarantor states meet also at Presidential and Ministerial levels.

At the Syrian National Dialogue Congress of January 30, 2018 held in Sochi, the delegates called for the establishment of a Constitutional Committee to advance the political process and pave the way for free and fair elections in Syria. Turkey, in close consultation with the opposition, continues to work with Russia, Iran and the UN to finalize the formation of the Constitutional Committee as soon as possible.

Fighting terrorism emanating from Syria:

The regime’s brutal policies, based on sectarian and ethnic discrimination added a new dimension to the conflict in Syria. As a result, DEASH and other terrorist organizations found fertile ground in the region. The menace posed by DEASH to the regional and international peace and security required effective global counter measures, leading to the creation of the Global Coalition Against DEASH.

Turkey has been an active member of the Global Coalition Against DEASH. Starting on July 24, 2015, Turkish Armed Forces, in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter on self-defense and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, targeted DEASH positions and responded to terrorist attacks originating from Syria.

In contribution to global efforts to eradicate the threat of DEASH in Syria, Turkey initiated Operation Euphrates Shield (OES) on August 24, 2016 with air support provided by the Global Coalition. With its military phase concluded on March 29, 2017, OES succeeded in clearing an area of 2,015 km² from DEASH and neutralizing 2,647 DEASH members.

The threat posed by PYD/YPG, the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian affiliate, to the lives and properties of the local population in Afrin as well as to our citizens living in bordering Turkish provinces escalated during the course of 2017 due to the increase in the number of PYD/YPG’s harassment fire and attacks. The presence of DEASH elements in Afrin and the risk of their possible infiltration into Turkey and Europe constituted another reason for Turkey to take action. Against this backdrop, the Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Olive Branch (OOB) on January 20, 2018. The operation’s objective was to ensure border security, to neutralize terrorists in Afrin and to save the brotherly Syrians from terrorists. With its military phase concluded on March 18, 2018, OOB succeeded in clearing an area of approximately 2,000 km² and neutralizing nearly 4,600 terrorists.

Both OES and OOB were carried out on the basis of the international law, in accordance with Turkey’s right of self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, as well as in full respect for Syria’s territorial integrity.

Since the conclusion of the military phases of both operations, early recovery and stabilization efforts in many fields (de-mining, local governance and security, health, education, justice, return of IDPs and refugees, etc.) have been undertaken by the Turkish authorities in close cooperation and coordination with the legitimate local actors. These efforts have facilitated the return of around 330,000 Syrians from Turkey to their homes in these operation areas.

Turkey does not tolerate any terrorist organization trying to find safe haven right on the other side of its border with Syria. Nor does it consent to the pursuit of unilateral agendas that work against Syria’s unity and territorial integrity. Accordingly, Turkey continues to point out that the fight against DEASH terrorism and stabilization activities in areas liberated from DEASH should not be carried out with another terrorist entity, namely PYD/YPG, under the guise of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces”. In this respect, Turkey has repeatedly warned its Coalition partners to discontinue their engagement with PYD/YPG.

In line with its right of self-defense and its rules of engagement, Turkey will not refrain from taking further action to counter PYD/YPG threats and attacks targeting its border and national security.