Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of occupying Syria. In an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Turkish head of state addressed Putin with the question: “What are you doing in Syria? You are essentially an occupier.” It was Erdogan’s response to the latest developments in Syria, in particular the reports that al-Assad’s army with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces had broken through the moderate opposition’s positions near the city of Aleppo, fought over for the past several years, and cut the highway that links it with the Turkish border. Human rights organizations stress that al-Assad’s objective is to prevent weapons and reinforcements from Turkey from reaching rebels in Syrian territory.
In addition, Erdogan criticized the US for its support of Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered terrorists by Turkey. The president was displeased with the trip of Brett McGurk, a personal envoy of US President Barack Obama, to the town of Kobani, controlled by a Kurdish militia. “How can we trust you? Is it me who is your partner or the terrorists in Kobani?” the Turkish president asked Americans. He also recounted the Turkish parliament’s 2003 decision to reject the US request to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq. “We do not want to fall into the same mistake in Syria as in Iraq. It is important to see the horizon. What is going on in Syria can only go on for so long. At some point it has to change,” Erdogan stressed. When asked whether Turkey was ready for an unexpected turn of events in Syria, the Turkish president replied: “These kinds of things are not talked about, what is required is done when it is needed. At the moment, we are ready against all kinds of possibilities with all of our security forces.”
Let us recall that al-Assad’s army offensive in Aleppo, supported by Russian air strikes, caused the Syrian peace talks in Geneva to break down in early February. Meanwhile, February 7 saw Syrian government troops advancing to one of the last strongholds of the rebels in the northern parts of Aleppo province, the town of Tell-Rifaat, situated 20 kilometers from the Turkish border. Over the first week of February, more than 35,000 people amassed near the border with Turkey, including the severely wounded persons who are forced to flee from the bombings. The Turkish government is building temporary camps for them and deliberating whether to allow refugees to cross the border. Until now, Turkey has accepted 2.5 million Syrian refugees already.