PM Says Turkey Ready to Take Measures Inside Syria to Protect Turkmen
Turkey will not hesitate to take required measures on Syrian soil to protect the Turkmen people, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, while noting that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is not active in the region.
Davutoğlu, speaking to reporters late on Nov. 22, recalled that he was engaged in constant contact with both Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan along the weekend concerning alleged Russian air raids on Turkmen villages near the Syrian-Turkish border.
“Our security forces have been instructed to retaliate to any development that would threaten Turkey’s border security,” Davutoğlu said.
“If there is an attack that would lead to an intense influx of refugees to Turkey, required measures would be taken both inside Syria and inside Turkey,” he said.
“Looking at background of these attacks; in a region where very clearly there is no element of DEASH [ISIL], where there is no terrorist element, first Russian airplanes come and then with support from foreign fighters,” he said.
“I want to underline this: foreign fighters are not solely DEASH elements in Syria; every non-Syrian inside Syria is a foreign fighter, whether they be Hezbollah coming from Lebanon or elements coming from other places, these foreign fighters aim at civilian people where the regime no longer has the power to resist,” he said.
“We will take the required measures also diplomatically for the protection of our siblings there in the place in which they are located and for protection of their human rights in the face of any threat,” he said.
But prominent Syrian Turkmen figure Ali Türkmani challenged Ankara’s claims that Syria’s Turkmen community was being targeted in attacks. “There is a perception operation that is being waged over the Turkmens,” he told daily BirGün on Nov. 22. “The regime will of course attempt to maintain its territorial integrity. As such, threats such as al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army are being targeted. But it’s not correct that the Turkmens are being targeted.”
The Turkmens are a Turkic-language-speaking ethnic minority who live alongside Arab and Kurdish populations and have traditionally had uneasy relations with the Syrian regimes of Bashar al-Assad and his late father, Hafez.
The Turkmens have for decades tried to maintain their language and culture in Syria, resisting Arab assimilation policies of the Syrian government, which in turn has frequently regarded them as a fifth column working in favor of Ankara. They maintain close ties to Turkey, which sees the minority as allies in its push to oust al-Assad from power.
“As of today, around 1,500 of our Turkmen brothers and sisters have come to our border region,” the governor of Turkey’s Hatay province on the Syrian border, Ercan Topaca, was quoted as saying earlier in the day. “Of course we are ready to meet their every need, especially as winter conditions are starting,” he said, adding that 575 tents had already been sent as well as blankets, food and medical supplies.