Born in Çankırı in 1968, Hasan Öztürk graduated from the Faculty of Communication at Ankara University in 1995. He began his journalism career at Zaman newspaper in 1986. He served as a Press Counselor at the Hizmet İş and Öz İplik İş Unions affiliated with Hak-İş. He served as an editor, news director, and editor-in-chief in various Ankara-based newspapers. He was among the founders of Ayyıldız newspaper in 1999. In September of the same year, he started to work as the night chief at Yeni Şafak daily. He started working at Kanal 7 Television in 2000. He worked for both Yeni Şafak and Kanal 7 for 3 years. In 2003, he served as a news director at Kanal 7. In 2008, he became the founding Editor-in-Chief of Ülke TV. He wrote daily columns for Haber7.com between 2009 and 2015 and Star newspaper between 2015-and 2016. He is married with three children.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a meeting yesterday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to find a permanent solution to the Idlib crisis. My first observation on the flight when heading to Moscow was as follows: The ground for reaching an agreement is slippery due to Russia’s maximalist attitude, however, “the table is not yet likely to be turned over.” Russians prefer to walk alongside Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, Turkey wants to convince the European Union through the U.S. to find a solution in Idlib.
We witnessed the historic meeting in light of this knowledge. Also, to understand what is happening, we recalled the recent past.
Turkey’s gates in the west were opened to refugees simultaneous with the launch of Operation Spring Shied. So, is there any change in the West’s indecisive stance concerning the refugees?
We signed a refugee return deal with the EU on March 18, 2016. Then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had stated that “It was a profitable negotiation. Under the deal, we will prevent irregular migration to the EU in exchange for visa liberalization, 3 billion euro, and another 3 billion euro by the end of 2018.” After that deal, Turkey, which was previously considered a “post”, became a “position.”
Three years on, the EU further made matters worse. The Budapest Process held its 6th Ministerial Conference in Istanbul in February 2019. The Istanbul Commitments regarding “refugee rights” was signed by all participants except Hungary.
The EU Commission’s then Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos sang the praises of Turkey. He said, “We can build new ones on top of the important results we have reached together concerning the refugee crisis. I remember more than 14,000 people crossing over to the EU through the Aegean Sea daily in 2015. It was an unmanageable situation. The essence of this cooperation […] is the generosity presented by Turkey, which is hosting about 4 million refugees.”
At the time “safe zone” discussions were ongoing in February 2019, President Erdoğan said, “If we, as Turkey, cannot get the millions of Syrians living on our soils to return to their own homes, they will eventually be knocking on Europe’s doors.”
In the subheading of a Feb. 15, 2019 article published in Yeni Şafak with the headline, “Barriers should be removed,” it was said, “The EU, which did not abide by the ‘Refugee Deal’ that was signed with Turkey in 2016, is now opposing the “safe zone” proposal in Syria. Therefore, Ankara is discussing lifting the barriers and opening the doors stopping refugees who want to go to Europe. While the EU thus experiences the real gravity of the refugee issue, the risks at sea will also decline.”
A great scenario was implemented in northern Syria, right under our noses. The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) overran cities. People were forced out of their homes and lands.
Almost all of them were exiled to Turkey. The handful of legitimate opposition forces remaining was swept by the regime, Russia and Iran, and directed towards Turkey. The last of those remaining were squeezed into the Idlib deescalation zone.
Turkey’s vision is clear. Safe zones should be established in Syria, primarily in Idlib, and Syrians should return to their homes.
Yet, the U.S. is making a new move everyday in favor of the PYD/YPG-PKK, which Russia and Iran are doing the same on behalf of the regime.
They are almost acting together to prevent Syrians from returning. It is as though they have struck a deal to make Syrians suffer the fate of Palestinians, turn Syria into Palestine, and Turkey into Jordan.
Yet, in the memorandum that was signed in Astana, Russia and Iran had initially declared that they agreed with Turkey concerning Syria’s territorial integrity as well as many other topics.
If you recall, within the scope of the memorandum signed in May 2017, it was decided that four “deescalation zones” would be established in Syria, with “safe zones” throughout the borders of these areas. Idlib was one of these.
The Sochi Deal, on the other hand, was signed between Turkey and Russia on Oct. 22, 2019, within the scope of Operation Peace Spring.
The important articles of the deal were as follows:
-. Both sides confirm their commitment to maintaining Syria’s political union and territorial integrity and protecting Turkey’s national security.
-. All YPG elements will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat together with their weapons.
-. Joint operation will be conducted with the aim of facilitating the safe and voluntary return of refugees.
-. Operations will be continued in efforts to find a permanent political solution to the Syrian dispute, and the operations of the Constitutional Committee will be supported.
Now, the question is this: Which of the above articles does Russia respect, while having the nerve to criticize Turkey with respect to the Idlib issue, saying, “it is not fulfilling the obligations stipulated in the deal”? Which of the deals signed with Turkey did the EU abide by?
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