02:38 GMT +325 May 2018
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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (File)

    Erdogan's Comments on Assad: 'Political Rhetoric for Domestic Consumption'

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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Ankara's military intervention in Syria is meant to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and his government, but Behlul Ozkan, assistant professor in international relations at Marmara University in Istanbul, told Radio Sputnik that this rhetoric does not reflect reality.

    Erdogan's comments on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are meant to "satisfy" the support base of the Turkish leader, the political analyst said. "These are mainly for public consumption. [These remarks] are more political rhetoric than reality," he added.

    Behlul Ozkan pointed to the timing. Erdogan made his remarks at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul. They come at a time when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have achieved major success in Aleppo. In recent days, Damascus-led forces freed large areas which were previously held by radical armed groups. 

    Apparently, there has been uproar among Erdogan's supporters over recent developments in Aleppo. Turkish leadership initially provided support to armed opposition groups fighting to remove Assad. Some of them have been present in Aleppo.

    Ankara's strategy with regard to Syria has changed since then.

    "Until 2016 the main objective was to overthrow the Assad regime and support the armed opposition, including some fundamentalist groups. It seems to me that this objective has changed. Turkey's priority is no longer to overthrow Assad," the analyst noted.

    In Behlul Ozkan's opinion, Erdogan and his supporters are currently primarily focused on pushing Daesh out of northern Syria and preventing Kurdish forces from advancing to the west. On August 24, Turkey launched a military offensive, formally known as Operation Euphrates Shield to pursue these goals. This campaign has not been authorized by Damascus.

    "The real goal of Ankara is, first, to establish a safe zone and clear this territory of [Daesh]. The second objective of that military operation is to stop the PYD advance. Basically the PYD is trying to unite two territories controlled by Kurdish forces," the analyst said.

    Ankara maintains that the PYD, also known as the Democratic Union Party, is affiliated with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and wants to create an autonomous, if not independent state on the border between Syria and Turkey.

    "I don't think that the objectives of [Operation Euphrates Shield] have changed," the analyst observed. Furthermore, this offensive "would not have been possible" without a nod from Russia and Iran, he added. "The Turkish military needs air support and Syria's airspace is controlled by Russia and Assad. There are S-400 air defense systems which are one of the most advanced systems in the world."

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    Tags:
    Syrian Kurds, rhetoric, Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield, Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Daesh, Bashar al-Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Aleppo, Syria, Turkey
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