Turkey Goes Unparalleled, Spent $32 Billion in Struggle Against Terrorism in Syria by Ali Cinar

October 17, 2018

The recent brave steps Turkey has taken in Idlib to prevent the city from transforming into a humanitarian disaster is a major diplomatic success. Turkey’s hosting of close to 4 million Syrian refugees is worthy of praise as a global example.

When it comes to the assistance for refugees, Turkey has spent $32 billion. Compared to that of international organizations, which have contributed only $600 million, with $1.7 billion coming from the European Union. The burden should not only fall on Turkey.

Thus far 55,000 Syrians have gained Turkish citizenship, 25,000 Syrians gained the right to obtain work visas in 2018. Also, 976,000 students aged between 5 and 18 are receiving education in Turkey. We must also keep in mind that 194,000 Syrians have managed to return to their country due to the success of the Afrin and Euphrates Shield operations.

Sincere financial and moral support should be provided to Turkey, rather than a simple thanks. The efforts of Turkey in its struggle against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a wing of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), has taken 40,000 lives.

Turkey’s struggle against terrorism must not be forgotten, and it is for this reason that it is erroneous to view the YPG and PKK separately in Turkey’s struggle against terrorism.

President Trump’s Syrian solution has recently moved towards a strategy to include the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Jordan, Germany, and France; however, it is puzzling as to why Turkey is excluded given its multidimensional role in Syria.

A solution in Syria without Turkey is impossible. Apart from its combat of terrorism, Turkey’s contribution to post-war infrastructure and projects concerning refugees and Syria, in general, is of immense importance; it is safe to conclude Turkey has a significant responsibility in Syria.

In President Erdogan’s speech at Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, his message that we must soon solve the issues between ourselves and our hope to once again develop relations amenable to the spirit of strategic partnership in the political and economic spheres is essential. At the same time, President Trump’s gratitude to Turkey at the U.N. General Assembly for its efforts in Idlib is notable.

No matter how difficult a period of relations between the two NATO allies is, when we look back in history, the U.S. and Turkey have worked very closely in every area. Turkey’s gravitation toward Russian and Iranian alternatives is not an approach desired by NATO countries, especially the U.S. We must build upon coordination similar to that in Manbij.

That is why the U.S. abandoning of its support to the YPG-PKK in northern Syria is significant to the improvement of relations and peace.

It is a well-known fact that the terrorist organization PKK and its followers adhere to the Marxist-Leninist ideology. It also has been documented by human rights organizations that the Democratic Union Party (PYD)-YPG has been applying pressure in carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign against Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens in Syria.

For what is a norm for the YPG is, in fact, a crime: to force children not even the age of 10 into war.

It must not be forgotten that 300,000 Syrian Kurds have escaped the horrors of YPG and the Islamic State and sought refuge in Turkey.

Turkey is a country that has always fought for world peace shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States since the Korean War. Appointing James Jeffrey, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, as the U.S. Special Representative for Syrian Engagement was an excellent move. Someone with vast knowledge and experience in the area is well placed to resolve the most of complex issues.

It is crucial for diplomatic channels to be open. President Erdogan and President Trump’s face-to-face meeting soon to be held will be a very significant step in the resolving disagreements.

There are many areas of interest and benefit to both nations, from the economy to education, energy and technology. This relationship will be beneficial to both Turkish and American societies which have had close contact in every segment and not just the perceived security one.

The United States and Turkey must find ways to support and defend each other’s national security concerns to uphold the principles that both countries share.

Ali Cinar is the president of Turkish Heritage Organization based in Washington, D.C. He has testified at U.S. Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Turkey in 2016 and 2017.