Normalizing Turkiye and Syria Relations is Not a Cakewalk
In a world characterized by geopolitical complexities and shifting alliances, the evolving relationship between Turkiye and Syria is a noteworthy development that holds significant promise for the entire Middle East region.
After years of strained ties and conflicting interests, both countries have embarked on a path toward normalization, seeking to lay the groundwork for a more stable and cooperative future. Recent comments by Syria President Bashar Assad, calling for Turkiye to leave Syrian borders, had added an interesting layer to this ongoing process.
The history of Turkiye-Syria relations has been fraught with tension, largely driven by their contrasting approaches to the Syrian civil war and the Kurdish question. Turkiye’s support for various opposition groups and its military intervention against Kurdish forces has often put it at odds with the Assad regime. However, the changing dynamics of the conflict, coupled with the desire for greater stability in the region, have spurred a reconsideration of these antagonistic stances.
President Assad’s call for Turkiye to leave Syrian borders is a manifestation of his government’s long-standing concerns regarding foreign intervention. While this demand may appear confrontational on the surface, it is essential to understand it within the context of a broader shift in diplomatic discourse. Assad’s willingness to engage in dialogue, albeit challenging, demonstrates a pragmatic approach to regional politics, which contrasts with the rigid isolationism that characterized his regime in the past.
Turkiye, on the other hand, has also shown a willingness to mend fences. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration has displayed a pragmatic recognition of the need to work collaboratively to address the security and humanitarian challenges that have beset both countries. Turkiye’s involvement in the Astana peace process, alongside Russia and Iran, exemplifies its desire to find diplomatic solutions to the Syrian conflict and contribute positively to regional stability.
Improved relations between Turkiye and Syria hold multifaceted benefits for the entire region. Such a rapprochement could help facilitate the return of millions of Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkiye. The social, economic, and political strains caused by this refugee population have been a pressing issue for both nations. By fostering cooperation and addressing shared challenges, the two countries can collaborate to ensure a dignified and sustainable return of refugees to their homeland.
A thaw in Turkiye-Syria relations could play a pivotal role in the broader effort to combat terrorism. Jointly addressing extremist groups that have taken advantage of regional instability requires coordinated action. A more harmonious relationship between Turkiye and Syria would create an environment conducive to intelligence sharing, cross-border security cooperation, and the dismantling of terrorist networks that pose a threat to both nations and the world at large.
Furthermore, normalized relations between Turkiye and Syria have the potential to recalibrate the regional balance of power. In a landscape marked by shifting alliances and geopolitical realignments, a stable and cooperative Turkiye-Syria axis could serve as a counterbalance to other actors with vested interests in the region. This could mitigate the risk of proxy conflicts and regional instability, promoting a more secure environment for all stakeholders.
The evolution of Turkiye-Syria relations in 2023 is a heartening development that carries significant implications for regional stability. President Bashar Assad’s comments regarding Turkiye’s presence along the Syrian borders, while demanding, signal a willingness to engage in diplomatic dialogue.
Turkiye’s pragmatic approach to the region, as demonstrated through its participation in the Astana process, highlights its recognition of the benefits of collaboration. The potential for improved relations between these two nations offers hope for addressing refugee challenges, counteracting terrorism, and fostering a more balanced regional landscape. As the dynamics continue to shift, it is imperative that both Turkiye and Syria seize this opportunity to usher in a new era of cooperation that benefits the entire Middle East.