08/13/2012, 00.00
TURKEY - SYRIA
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Erdogan, the Kurdish nightmare and the end of Assad

by NAT da Polis
As Assad's regime crumbles, an autonomous Kurdish region is emerging in northern Syria on good terms with the PKK. Having turned against Assad, Erdogan now fears the birth of a "terrorist-friendly" Kurdish state. For Turkey, the time has come to meet the needs of its minorities.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Heavy fighting in Syria, especially near Aleppo, shows that the day for a final showdown between the Assad regime and foreign-backed insurgents is drawing near.

As major powers blame each other for the conflict, in northern Syria facts are being established on the ground, namely the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region near the borders with Turkey and northern Iraq. With Assad's tacit approval, the area has come under the control of Syrian Kurds. This is Assad's response to Ankara's stab in the back.

In the past, Turkey stood by the Assad regime (pictured). Three years ago, Ankara acted as a go-between Syria and Israel. Now it is backing Syrian insurgents.

Turkish leaders are very worried that the Syrian crisis might turn into a real nightmare for Ankara. Syrian Kurds have good relations with the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). Indeed, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is now saying that he would not allow terrorist organisations to set up military camps in northern Syria.

In order to prevent an alliance between the PKK and Syrian Kurds, Ankara is cultivating ties with Masud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan. However, matters are increasingly complicated and hard to coordinate.

Turkish leaders realise no matter what happens, whether Sunnis win or the civil war drags on, a new Kurdish autonomous region is very likely to emerge next to Turkey's soft underbelly. Ankara's gamble is that it will be able to prevent an alliance among various Kurdish groups.

The Syrian crisis is also a sign of the weakness of the neo-Ottoman policy pursued by Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, once touted as a factor of stability in the area and worth of imitation.

Diplomatic circles in Istanbul note that Erdogan's policies, lukewarm at best when it comes to minority rights, now could see the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish state south of the border that might encourage Turkey's own 15 million Kurds to seek autonomy, if not outright secession.

Remembering Turkey's purges of its non-Muslim minorities, the same circles are urging Erdogan to turn words into deeds by finding ways to integrate minorities. The time for high sounding words is over.

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