Spotlight: Will strike on Syria contribute to rapprochement between Turkey, U.S.?

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-08 20:13:20|Editor: xuxin
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by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Turkey welcomed on Friday the U.S. missile strike against a Syrian air base and considered the military action possible to build a rapprochement between the two NATO allies on the ground amid serious differences.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the safe zones proposed for years by Ankara for civilians in Syria were now more important than ever.

Ankara which has been involved in border operations against Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish groups, has been calling for Syria's Bashar al-Assad's government to be ousted and for a safe zone to be imposed.

"This military intervention of the United States is right in its timing and we support it. We are also calling on government supporters not to stand behind the regime," Cavusoglu told reporters in the southern Turkish town of Alanya.

Erdogan described the strike in Shayrat, Homs province as a "positive and concrete step" against the brutal and deadly chemical attack against civilians in Idlib 48 hours before.

The U.S. strikes have divided the international community, Turkey, France and Britain supporting it while Russia and Iran strongly condemned the attack against a "sovereign nation."

"Is it enough? I don't think so. It is time to take serious steps for the protection of innocent Syrian people," said Erdogan, adding that "the international community has the capability to stop the regime and terrorist organizations."

President Erdogan also highlighted the fact that the two largest military powers of NATO would see eye-to-eye on the crisis in Syria.

"I hope the active stance that the United States displayed there is a beginning with regards to such developments," he added.

Will this unexpected military action contribute to an unlikely revival in Turkish-U.S. relations after years of tension? Experts said it's difficult to predict, since the position of President Donald Trump is still unclear.

"This military action is clearly in line with Turkey's wishes in Syria but we don't know what the U.S. is planning next," said Ilter Turan, an international relations expert of the Istanbul Bilge University.

"President Donald Trump has made something unexpected at an unexpected time and it has been welcomed by an ally that wanted the U.S. to do it since the beginning of the civil war in Syria," he said.

"Even though this is in line with the policy pursued by Turkey, we shall have to wait and see if it will be something viable and sustainable," Turan added.

Just hours before the intervention against his neighbor to the south, Turkey's top diplomat Cavusoglu said during a television interview that possible change comes for the best between Ankara and Washington.

"The current U.S. administration has not been negative towards Turkey, and they do understand the mistakes of the previous administration perfectly," he argued.

By the word "mistakes," Cavusoglu was referring to failure of extraditing the U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who was blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt last July, and most importantly, the U.S. decision to team up in Syria with a Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG).

Adding to the complex alliances in Syria's civil war, Russia, along with the United States, also backs the YPG.

"We tried to convince the Obama regime but failed, let us hope that on Syria and other matters such as the extradition of Gulen, we will have a more sound cooperation," said to Xinhua a source close to the Turkish government.

"U.S. strike for the first time Assad, safe zones next" was the headline of the pro-government newspaper Sabah one day after the U.S. strike.

Nevertheless, some commentators noted that this military action is in fact complicating things further in Syria with which Turkey shares a border of some 900 km.