Ex-diplomats, analysts stress importance of US-Turkish cooperation on Syria

Biden administration must make its Syria policy clear, says former US special envoy to the country

Ahmet Gençtürk   | 16.11.2021
Ex-diplomats, analysts stress importance of US-Turkish cooperation on Syria


Seasoned former Turkish and US diplomats and analysts on Monday stressed the importance of their countries working together to deal with the Syria issue.

In the opening speech at a conference, Ahmet Uysal, head of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM) think-thank based in the Turkish capital Ankara, stressed the importance of Syria and the Levant for peace and stability in the region.

On the decade-long civil war in Syria, he said the terror group Daesh/ISIS, which concentrated its attacks on the Syrian opposition, not Assad regime forces, along with numerous foreign players – including Russia, Iran, and Lebanese Hezbollah – have played a crucial role in the survival of the Assad regime.

Speaking at "The Future of Syria: Turkish and US Perspectives" conference in Ankara, Uysal also argued that Western governments and the Obama administration failed to keep their promises to the Syrian opposition forces.

But he argued that US-Turkish cooperation is still relevant and "very much needed to push for a political transition in Syria, reconstruction of the war-torn country, pressure the Russians and the Assad regime and ensure peace in the region."

James Jeffrey, a top former US diplomat whose postings included nearly two years as ambassador to Turkey, highlighted that Syria is a dangerous problem, not only for the US and Turkey but also for the whole world.

Pointing to the humanitarian dimension of the issue, he said that over 12 million Syrian were driven away from their homes.

Praising Ankara's policy and efforts to help Syrian refugees – in which Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country – Jeffrey said: "Turkey, which is hosting 5 million refugees, is doing an amazing job."

He added that the Biden administration must make its Syria policy clear and share it with the international community.

US, Turkey, and state of affairs in Syria

Another speaker, Joel Rayburn, a former US special envoy for Syria, stressed that Syria has turned into a narco-state which produces and exports drugs, mostly into Gulf states.

Holding the Assad regime responsible for the current state of affairs, he said the regime's continuation would create more problems, including Iranian military expansion, a rising number of refugees, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Oytun Orhan, ORSAM's coordinator for Levant studies, said the main pillars of Turkey's Syria policy include combatting terrorism, preserving Syria’s territorial integrity, preventing a new mass migration wave, and finding a political solution to the crisis based on UN Security Council resolutions.

Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, echoed other speakers in saying that the intransigent Assad regime is responsible for the suffering of the country and its people.

Touching on recent efforts by some Arab countries – including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan – to normalize ties with Syria, he said they want to use economic incentives to push the regime to a negotiated resettlement.

Richard Outzen, former US State Department senior advisor for Syrian engagement, stressed that there has not been enough discussion or communication between Turkish and US institutions over Syria.

The common interests that Turkey and the US share in Syria entails a more close and comprehensive dialogue and cooperation, he said.

"We, like Turkey, want a stable and peaceful country which doesn't threaten its neighbors," he said, adding that the Biden administration is aware of Turkey's concerns and interests concerning Syria.

Syria has been in a civil war since early 2011, after the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed over the past decade, and more than 10 million others have been displaced.​​​​​​​

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