Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has reportedly indicated that there are “not many reasons” for Turkey to fight against any of the countries in its region, suggesting that his country will stop combating the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Instead, Turkey would try to improve relations with its neighbors, he added.
Throughout the nearly five-year-old war in Syria, Turkey has sided with armed groups fighting the Assad regime.
While the Russian military has backed troops loyal to the Syrian dictator since last year, Turkey has supported various armed groups seeking to overthrow the regime, including jihadists, Rudaw reports.
Nevertheless, the Turkish PM’s comments suggest a major foreign policy shift towards Turkey’s neighbors.
According to Hurriyet Daily News, at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) in the capital Ankara on July 11, Yıldırım said:
There are not many reasons for us to fight with Iraq, Syria, Egypt and countries in all regions. But there are many reasons to carry relations forward…
We will increase our friendships and decrease enmities. We will also increase our friendships within the country. We will refrain from meaningless and empty discourse. From now on, we will improve our friendships with all countries surrounding the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. We will keep our disagreements at a minimum.
Yıldırım reportedly emphasized that Turkey “regards all countries as friends.”
Last month, Turkey began to normalize strained ties with Israel and Russia. The Turkish government has reportedly expressed regret for shooting down a Russian warplane over the Turkish-Syria border in November 2015, a move that severely damaged the relationship between the two countries.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed optimism that improving the links between Moscow and Ankara will result in cooperation over Syria.
According to Rudaw, Russia’s Tass news agency quotes Lavrov as saying:
Normalization of relations with Turkey … will have a positive effect on the situation in the region in general, and I hope will help us to search more effectively for common approaches for overcoming the Syrian crisis, on which the positions of Russia and Turkey are far from coinciding.
However, my honest conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Sochi allows me to hope that there will now be less disagreements with our Turkish partners, and we will try to negotiate more openly on implementing the decisions of the UN Security Council and ISSG [International Syria Support Group].
In the last few months of 2015, Turkey also engaged in diplomatic arguments with its neighbor Iraq over its deployment of extra troops to a forward operating base near Mosul.
“Ankara has also refused to recognize the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as legitimate and denounced the July 2013 military coup, which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government,” notes Rudaw.
“Yilidrim’s statement implies that many of these policies will change and that Turkey will revert to the pre-2011 ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy, whereby it will downplay its disagreements with regional countries in order to maintain fruitful economic and business ties with them,” it adds.
While the Turkish government vows to improve its relationship with Syria and other countries in its region, tensions between Syrian and local Turks have escalated in the Beyşehir district of the Central Anatolian province of Konya in Turkey.
There, “a young Turkish man and a Syrian man were recently killed in a street fight, as local residents, including the slain Turkish teen’s family, demand the Syrians living in the area leave,” reports Hurriyet.
The news outlet adds:
Two people were killed and another three were wounded in a fight between Syrians and Turks which erupted over the kicking of a stray dog late on July 9 in Beyşehir. The fight was reportedly started after Mehmet Bayraktar, 18, saw four Syrians kicking a stray dog and warned them not to do so.