Event Summary: Challenges to U.S.-Turkey Cooperation in Syria
On April 15, 2019, the SETA Foundation at Washington D.C. hosted a discussion titled, “Challenges to U.S.-Turkey Cooperation in Syria.” Panelists included Burhanettin Duran, General Coordinator at the SETA Foundation, and Richard Outzen, Senior Advisor for Syrian Engagement at the U.S. State Department. Kilic Kanat, Research Director at SETA DC was the moderator of this discussion.
Colonel Rich Outzen provided a brief synopsis of the cooperation between two countries in Syria. First, he underlined that all NATO members want the relationship between the US and Turkey to work. He talked about a positive development in the US-Turkey relationship which both countries have gotten to the point beyond a certain level of conversation. He explained that both sides talk about what to do about the YPG in Syria. In this regard, he reminded that there is a concrete and constructive dialogue in terms of how to address the YPG issue and its secondary threats to Turkey. He clarified that the US policy in Syria is not to seek for a regime change. Instead, it is to achieve a change in the regime’s behavior. He put forward six conditions to resume health relations between Syria and the West, and perhaps to unlock reconstruction funding.
Prof. Burhanettin Duran described the Turkish position in the cooperation in Syria. He highlighted that Syria can be a topic of cooperation after so many tensions between the US and Turkey. However, he suggested that the nature of the relationship should be redefined since both countries are far from the good old days. He commented on Mr. Outzen’s remarks, stating that the US goals are ambitious if we consider the fact that the US is withdrawing in Syria simultaneously. According to Prof. Duran, the goals, such as protecting the border security of Turkey and fighting with DAESH and militias are difficult to achieve at the same time. He reminded the Turkish priorities in Syria which are the territorial integrity of Syria, the safe return of Syrian refugees and clearance of terrorist groups from the borders, namely the YPG and Daesh. Prof. Duran recommended that both countries need to make positive agendas. By referring to the draft bills and resolution introduced in Congress, Prof. Duran also thinks that both the US and Turkey should avoid that the relationship becomes an emotional issue.