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New RD Publication - Turkey’s military policy in Syria: implications for NATO

  • 24 Feb. 2020
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  • Last updated: 24 Feb. 2020 11:27

NDC Policy Brief 4-20


Turkey’s ever transforming strategic priorities in Syria

In three decades, Ankara’s strategic agenda in Syria has considerably changed. First, back in the late 1990s, Turkey’s primary goal was to put an end to the Hafez al-Assad regime’s use of the PKK terrorist organization as a proxy. To address the threat at its source, Ankara resorted to a skillfully crafted coercive diplomacy, backed by the Turkish Armed Forces. A determined approach – championed by Turkey’s late president Suleyman Demirel – formed the epicenter of this policy: it was coupled with adept use of alliances, in particular the Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership. In October 1998, Syria, a troublesome state sponsor of terrorism as designated by the US Department of State since 19791, gave in. The Baath regime ceased providing safe haven to Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s founder who claimed thousands of lives in Turkey. The same year, Damascus signed the Adana Agreement with Ankara, vowing to stop supporting terrorist groups targeting Turkey.

* (back) Director of the security and defense programme of the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM, and Research Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS).

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