Opinion | Turkey’s Last Cards in Syria, the Cypriot Model

This article appeared in Al-Akhbar newspaper by Rezan Heddo

Translated to English by: Jamila Assi

Cyprus had lived a phase of chaos and civil war and had witnessed massacres and assassinations among EOKA (Greek Cypriots) lead by archbishop Makarios and Vulcan (Turkish Cypriots) lead by Rauf Denktash. The independence pact signed by the conflicting parties in Zurich 1959 with the influential of countries involved in the Cypriot issue (Britain – Turkey- Cyprus), failed to solve the problem and maintain peace and stability for more than three years.

Although that the agreement was followed by the election of a president and the adoption of a new constitution, but the violence wave returned when the Turkish Cypriots refused the constitutional changes suggested by the present elect Makarios. Therefore, the situation remained unstable in Cyprus in despite of sending peacekeeping forces by the United Nations in 1964. This situation continued until the Turkish forces interfered exactly ten years later, benefiting from the deterioration of security after the coup against president Makarios. Turkish soldiers managed to take one-third of the island, then the Turkish government established secure zones over 3350 square kilometers under the pretext of protecting Cypriot Turks who barely made 20% of the total population.

Under international pressure, president Makarios returned to office, but the Turkish army did not retreat from the areas it had occupied; instead, they announce a self-administration in the north of Cyprus. With that began the demographic change process; Turkish Cypriots to the north, and Greek Cypriots to the south. Self-administration continued till 1983 when the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was announced, under Turkish custody. Rauf Denktash was elected as the first president of a state not recognized by any other state around the world, except for Turkey. Until today, this is still the case in Cyprus, Cypriots still dream of the day when their country will be united once again with one capital, and no more division.

Revisiting the Cyprian case might help us understand the Turkish project in the Syrian North, which entered the execution phase on 24 August 2016, when the Turkish Army entered Syrian territory to enlarge its expansion later on in what came to be known as “Euphrates Shield” from Jarabulus to Al-Bab, including al-Rai and Mare’ until Azaz. Pretexts this time varied, from protecting Turkmens, to establishing a safe zone to prevent illegal migration, to fighting PYD –the ally of PKK Turkey’s worst enemy- to fighting ISIS.  Then later the talk about the red lines which president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always dreamt about, then his will to pray at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus as a celebration of the success of his policies. But dreams remained mere dreams, and the red lines turned into a rainbow, so much that return to reality now needs a very strong ladder on which he can rely to get down off the tree of dreams with a very heavy burden due to to political and security failure.

Within less than a month after the failed coup in Turkey, the Turkish army announced the operation of Euphrates Shield on Syrian territory, entering from Jarabulus. At that moment we realized that the Turkish regime aims at cloning the north Cypriot scenario to create a Syrian north. However, the will of some parties to give the Turkish government another chance made this government a “sponsor” of the political solution, have put our fears and worries about the truth of the Turkish project to sleep. Those fears did not come out of nowhere, we have built them based on information we received on the predicted movements to come; “building cities and residential areas where Syrian citizens would be carefully placed to guarantee a direct subjection to Turkey, then improving the level of services and making living in those areas a dream compared to other areas where there is war, poverty, inflation, corruption, and lack of services.” The next step would be binding those areas financially with Turkey, which will eventually lead to using Turkish Lira. If Syria demands the Turkish forces to leave later, Ankara will move its followers on those areas pushing them to protest and call for a public vote which is likely to end with separating those areas and adding them to Turkey.

Yesterday, the talk about the Turkish project resumed after the Turkish government announced its intention to build a new city that can take 80,000 citizens in rural north Aleppo, near l-Rai area. This has come in parallel with insider information that Azaz city is now run directly by the vali (governor) of the Turkish city of Kilis, and that the entitlement of the “free police” to maintain security in Azaz would be under the command of Turkish ministry of interior. What will take place in Azaz will definitely take place on other Syrian areas under Turkish control.

The separation of Syrian lands has undoubtedly already begun, which raises question marks on the response of Damascus and its allies. The coming days will define the features of the future Syria, so there will either be a resent to reality as it is and waiting the announcement of a state in the north of Syria the Cypriot way, or there will be support of the resistance option to liberate the Syrian north like the Lebanese experience which succeeded in liberating the South of Lebanon and forced out the Israeli colonizer with its agents known as ‘South Lebanon south Army’.

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