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Turkey’s Position in Syria: A Prototype of its Regional Coverage within the Center East

Turkish coverage towards Syria has went via totally different phases because the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1924. But, Syria has at all times been the primary sphere of Turkey’s regional position within the Center East. Geographical proximity, shared historical past, and customary safety points have formed the evolution of bilateral relations and Turkish regional conduct towards both conciliation and rapprochement or pressure and army encroachment. By sharing frequent borders of almost 900 km, Turkey and Syria have engaged in everlasting interactions that influenced the steadiness of energy in bilateral relations and the safety dilemma within the Center East.

Historic Background on Turkish-Syrian Relations

Not solely had Turkey the steadiness of energy in its favor all through the Chilly Conflict interval and the Nineties but in addition regional dynamics have been dominated by energy politics, notably antagonist army alliances involving Western nations and Israel vis-à-vis Arab nations. Though the Turkish-Syrian distinction was instigated by bilateral conflicts over the area of Hatay/Iskenderun, the repartition of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the Kurdish situation, Arab nations expressed solidarity towards Syria on the bilateral degree and inside regional situations such because the Arab League and the Group of Islamic Convention. Egypt alongside Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Gulf nations have at all times condemned Turkish coverage towards Syria and restricted cooperation with Turkey to the financial degree.

Throughout the Seventies and 80s, Turkish financial ties have been restricted to a few Arab nations, specifically the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. However, Turkish initiatives of financial cooperation involving Arab nations and Israel have been conditioned by the constructive growth of the Israeli-Palestinian battle (Aykan, 1993; Mouawad, 2001). In gentle of Turkey’s regional initiatives inside its alliance with the US, Arab nations have rejected to participate in some, notably the water pipeline initiatives that concerned Israel, until the latter would attain a constructive settlement on Palestinian rights with the PLO.

Distrust has dominated the notion of the Turkish regional position within the area on account of its antagonistic conduct towards Syria. The Syrian help for the PKK fighters as a strain card for getting a greater settlement over water rights was met with Turkish engagements into army and strategic alliances with the US and Israel within the area. The Eighties and the Nineties witnessed Turkish alignment with the US coverage within the Center East, notably vis-à-vis Iran and Iraq along with its conclusion of a sequence of army agreements with Israel in 1996 and 1997. Turkey’s comparative benefit in army capacities vis-à-vis Arab nations has culminated with the mobilization of army troops on frequent borders with Syria in 1998 which prompted the al-Assad regime to cease its help for the PKK fighters because of an Egyptian mediation that facilitated the conclusion of subsequent bilateral agreements on the safety and political ranges.

Turkish coverage towards Syria below the JDP Rule (2002–2010)

Though Turkish rapprochement with Syria was initiated by the army institution and supported by the secular ruling elite on the time, the inauguration of the Justice and Growth Social gathering to energy in November 2002 has paved the way in which for the beginning of a brand new chapter in bilateral relations. Turkish coverage towards Syria continued to incarnate a prototype of a brand new Turkish regional coverage within the Center East. In step with the JDP’s regional imaginative and prescient primarily based on financial rapprochement, zero issues with neighbors, multidimensionality, and proactivity, Turkey initiated an lively coverage towards Syria. Frequent official visits have launched a number of agreements towards political, financial, safety, and technical cooperation via the Excessive Council for Strategic Cooperation that was then emulated with Turkey’s neighboring nations. Each nations agreed to develop areas of frequent pursuits, multiply commerce relations, notably throughout borders via the creation of dual cities and the rise of investments in important Syrian industries, and to undertake a cooperative strategy within the administration of the Kurdish and water points.

The rise of bilateral commerce with Syria following the elimination of visa necessities between each nations as a medium for overcoming bilateral pressure was replicated all through the area with Arab and Caucasian nations. Claims over the Hatay/Iskenderun area, disagreement over water repartition, and mutual distrust over the Kurdish situation have not been dominant elements in shaping bilateral relations since they have been bypassed by a number of areas for cooperation on the financial, political, technical, and strategic ranges such because the elimination of visa necessities with Syria, technical cooperation over the administration of the Tigris and Euphrates’ water, and the Free Commerce Settlement in 2004 (Aras, 2009; Magued, 2019).

Writings have make clear structural and normative transformations in Turkish coverage towards Syria as a manifestation of an actual change in Turkish regional position and coverage towards neighbors on the discursive and sensible ranges (Magued, 2019; Mahfuz, 2012; Aras, 2004; Davutoğlu, 2010). Turkish openness towards Syria highlighted an official shift towards the adoption of a pleasant and constructive discourse towards Syria and Arab nations with a concentrate on areas of frequent pursuits moderately than problems with disagreement. This alteration in Turkish angle has unlocked the regional safety dilemma that persevered till the tip of the Nineties. With the JDP’s incarnation of a political and financial position mannequin for Arab and Muslim nations, it has been oriented towards the multiplication of enterprise ties and political coordination amongst neighbors and between the latter and superpowers, notably the US and the EU. This safety shift in Turkish regional coverage from materials threats to areas of complementarity and cooperation amongst neighbors got here in response to the Turkish adoption of European harmonization packages firstly of the 2000s as a situation for beginning membership negotiations.

Moreover, Turkish rapprochement towards Syria introduced an unprecedented channel of communication between the al-Assad regime and its allies (Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah) from one aspect and the West (notably the US and the EU) from the opposite. Turkish-Syrian relations launched step one towards the sociopolitical and financial normalization of the Center East and its normative integration into the worldwide order. This step was concretized via mediation between resilient authoritarian leaders like al-Assad and the Iranian regimes from one aspect and Israel and the European Troika from the opposite, the advance of the Syrian financial infrastructure, and the reconciliation of its political worldview with Western powers on varied points, notably the progress in peace negotiations and the alleviation of the Syrian resistance stance vis-à-vis the West.

The Shift in Turkish Coverage towards Syria and Its Repercussions on its Regional Position within the Center East

Though the JDP has initiated a profitable rapprochement towards Syria, the Arab rebellion, notably the protests that erupted in Deraa in March 2011 and prompted safety considerations to come back to the fore in bilateral relations and disturb regional dynamics. The reemergence of the threatening nature of the Kurdish issue has alarmed Turkey of home political developments in Syria. Breaking with the non-public friendship that developed between al-Assad and Erdoğan, the JDP’s name for speedy political reforms in Syria has elevated pressure in bilateral relations and propelled Turkish army intervention in bordering areas since 2012. Ranging from 2011, the Turkish laborious energy strategy towards Syria introduced a prototype of the JDP’s position within the area. Turkey’s coverage was marked by a sequence of army operations in Syrian and Iraqi cities in its combat towards the PKK parts that have been empowered by the emergence of a Syrian Kurdish Entrance and the Kurdish authorities in Northern Iraq.

The adoption of a confrontational and nationalist line in Turkish coverage towards Syria that focuses on the limitation of the PKK infiltration throughout borders and its political-strategic empowerment in Syria and Iraq has tainted Turkey’s regional position and relations with neighbors right into a Hobbesian outlook. Turkey’s former financial companions in Gulf nations have expressed their opposition to Turkey’s coverage in Syria and supported the present Egyptian regime following the ousting of the Muslim Brothers’ post-revolutionary authorities. Additionally, the Kurdish authorities in Northern Iraq expressed its opposition to the presence of Turkish officers and troops in Iraq and Syria. Equally, Egypt alongside Gulf nations perceived Turkish intervention in Libya in help of Fayez al-Sarrag’s authorities as a difficulty of nationwide safety that might disturb its Western borders’ stability and order. In response to Turkey’s army presence in northern Syria, notably Idlib in coordination with Russia, Egypt has excluded Turkey from the East Mediterranean Fuel Discussion board initiative that missed Turkish strategic pursuits in maritime borders’ demarcation with Greece and Cyprus (al-monitor, 2020; emgf.org).


Syria has at all times been geostrategically essential for Turkey within the formulation of its regional coverage and position towards neighbors. The character of bilateral relations has trusted the administration of frequent problems with competition that constituted an obstacle towards rapprochement within the Eighties and Nineties and tainted the Turkish regional position with a tough energy strategy within the Center East. The JDP’s success within the introduction of a conciliatory diplomatic framework primarily based on the event of areas of frequent pursuits with Syria has enabled its diffusion amongst neighbors. Nevertheless, the eruption of the Arab uprisings has interrupted the conciliatory course of bilateral relations and disturbed the normative framework of Turkish diplomacy within the area.


Aras, B. (2004). Turkey and the Better Center East. Istanbul: Tasam Publications.

Aras, B. (2009). The Davutoğlu Period in Turkish Overseas Coverage. Perception Turkey 11(3), 127-142.

Aykan, M. (1993). The Palestinian Query in Turkish Overseas Coverage from Fifties to the Nineties. Worldwide Journal of Center East Research 25(1), 91-110.

Davutoğlu, A. (2010). The Turkish Coverage within the Center East and the Turkish-Egyptian Relations. Sharq Nameh 6, 1-10.

Hassan, Khalid (2020). Egypt leads international coalition to confront Turkey in eastern Mediterranean. Al-Monitor.

Magued, S. (2019). Turkey’s Financial Rapprochement in the direction of Syria as a Means for Fixing Territorial Conflicts. Mediterranean Politics 24(1), 20-39.

Mahfuz, A. (2012). Al-siyyāsatul khārijiyyat-ul-turkiyyah: al-‘istimrār wal-taghiyyīr. [Turkish Foreign Policy: Continuity and Change]. Cairo: The Arab Heart for Analysis and Research.

Mouawad, G. (2001). Al-ilaqat al-masriyyah al-turkiyyah [The Turkish-Egyptian Relations]. Cairo: The Heart for Strategic Research and Analysis. https://emgf.org

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