Turkish presence in Syria could affect fate of disputed regions across world – analyst

Turkey's actions and plans in Syria have distorted international law and could have serious implications for disputed regions in several countries, wrote Seth J. Frantzman for the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said that Turkey would launch a military operation in northeastern Syria to form a safe zone or what Ankara calls "peace corridor", aiming to clear the area off Kurdish militia and establish cities for return of Syrian refugees.

The United States on Monday announced its withdrawal from the region to make way for the incursion.

"Turkey has re-written the rules of international law in Syria, declaring that when there is a presence of what it views as a 'terrorist organization,' it has a right to invade and create a 'safe zone' or 'peace corridor' along the border," Frantzman wrote.

Turkey sees the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

If Ankara goes ahead with the planned operation, it would be the third Turkish incursion into Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011.

Turkish army and Turkish-backed forces took control of Azaz and Jarablus in its 2016-17 Euphrates Shield operation and invaded Kurdish controlled enclave of Afrin in 2018.

Turkey's operations and silence of the international community paved the way for the pseudo-legal invasion of disputed regions.

"Most countries that have territorial disputes can now look to Ankara as a beacon. Whether in the Balkans or Caucuses, central Asia and beyond, the ‘safe zone’ concept as articulated by Turkey should be seen as a precedent in international forums for the 'right to invade'," Frantzman said.

Now, Israel can legitimise its invasion of Golan Heights and the West Bank, or Saudi Arabia can ask for setting up a Turkey-style safe zone in Yemen, according to the analyst.