10/16/2019, 09.49
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Turkish opposition: Erdogan’s offensive in Syria is a PR stunt

by Emanuele Scimia

The Ankara government says it is conducting an anti-terror campaign against Kurds in Syria, but the opposition CHP believes Erdogan is trying to polish his image amid domestic woes. Erdogan prepares new elections. Western sanctions could severely damage Turkey’s fragile economy.

Ankara (AsiaNews) - The Turkish government insists it is carrying out an anti-terror campaign against the Kurds in northeastern Syria. However, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition force in Turkey, believes that behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to eliminate People’s Protection Forces (YPG) militias along Turkey’s southern border is also the intention to score political points at a time when his popularity at home has been dented by electoral setbacks in Istanbul and Ankara, and economic headwinds.

Ahmet Berat Çonkar, a member of the Turkish Parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and deputy head of Turkey’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, told AsiaNews that his country was conducting a “comprehensive anti-terror operation against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] movement and the YPG, its Syrian wing, which have killed thousands of Kurds and Turks in Turkey and elsewhere in cold blood.”

Kurdish militants under the banner of the  Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group that also includes Arab fighters, helped the United States and other NATO countries root out the Islamic State insurgency in worn-torn Syria.

Following the US withdrawal from the area targeted by Ankara, the Kurds have agreed to join forces with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian ally.

Ünal Çeviköz, CHP deputy chairman and point man for foreign affairs, noted that immediately after its previous offensives on Syrian soil – “Euphrates Shield” from August 2016 to March 2017 and “Olive Branch” in the first months of 2018 – the Turks had voted in a referendum to turn their country’s existing parliamentary system into a presidential one and in parliamentary and presidential elections, respectively.

“There is a pattern here,” he said. “Each [military] operation is followed by a vote. It is therefore a widely-shared view in many circles that even recent Operation Peace Spring is a prelude to yet another snap election in 2020.”

The European Union and the United States have urged Erdogan to halt the assault against Syrian Kurds. Many European countries have banned the sale of arms systems to Turkey, while the Trump administration has sanctioned Turkish government entities and senior officials.

The CHP is concerned about the impact of US and EU sanctions on Turkey’s fragile economy, which decreased by 1.5% in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2018, the Turkish Statistical Institute reported in September.

Çonkar said that some allied countries were “unfortunately working with terrorists,” and were pressuring Turkey to stop the offensive. According to him, “economic sanctions should not be an issue among NATO allies as that would damage Atlantic solidarity and weaken the alliance against growing [international] threats.”

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