Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu pledged to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers” who helped defend the country in the early 20th century, just days after Russia warned of Ankara’s intentions to invade Syria as the rebels there falter.
“We will return our historic debt. At one time, our brothers from Aleppo defended our cities of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, now we will defend the heroic Aleppo. All of Turkey stands behind its defenders,” Davutoglu said at the meeting of the Party of Justice and Development parliamentary faction, which he heads.
Davutoglu was apparently referring to World War One and subsequent events in the Turkish War of Independence, seemingly glorifying the defense and retaking of Turkish cities from the Allied forces. Yet, he failed to mention that the Turks had been drawn into the war by Ottoman imperial ambitions. Turkey had entered the conflict by shelling the Russian port of Odessa from the sea. It then suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Russian troops in the war’s southern theater, before the Ottoman Empire was occupied and divided by the Allies. At the time, the three cities Davutoglu named saw thousands of Armenians and other minorities slaughtered by Turkish nationalists as part of the Armenian Genocide, which Ankara denies to this day.
Alarmingly, the statement comes less than a week after Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that Turkey was preparing a military invasion of Syria and is trying to conceal illegal activity on its Syrian border.
“We have significant evidence to suspect Turkey is in the midst of intense preparations for a military invasion into Syria’s sovereign territory,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow.
Konashenkov also stated that Turkey had canceled an agreed upon Russian observation flight that had been scheduled over its territory because of its illicit activities. “So if someone in Ankara thinks that the cancelation of the flight by the Russian observers will enable hiding something, then they’re unprofessional.”
Moreover, Konashenkov pointed out that Turkey has already been supplying terrorists in the Syrian cities of Idlib and Aleppo with manpower and weaponry.
The spokesman showed the media a photo of the Reyhanli checkpoint, saying that “through this very border crossing – mainly at nighttime – the militants, who seized the city of Aleppo and Idlib in northwestern Syria, are being supplied with arms and fighters from Turkish territory.”
The alarming new developments come as jihadi forces fighting President Bashar Assad’s army in northern Syria are suffering losses and retreating to the Turkish border.
Moscow had provided the international community earlier with video evidence that Turkish artillery had fired on populated Syrian areas in the north of Latakia Province.
Meanwhile, Turkey has denied any plans to invade Syria. “Turkey doesn’t have any plans or intentions to begin a military campaign or ground operations on Syrian territory,” Reuters cited a senior Turkish government official as saying.
This is not the first time alleged plans by Turkey to invade Syria have been reported. In 2014, Turkey shut off access to YouTube after an explosive leak of audiotapes revealed that its ministers had been discussing how to stage a provocation that could justify a military intervention in Syria.
In one of the leaked recordings, a top government official mentions how an attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, could do the trick. The monument is located in the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)-embattled Syrian province of Raqqa, which is just over 30 kilometers from the Kurdish border town of Kobane and 1.5 hours’ drive from Aleppo.
US-Turkish rift over Syria plans?
Allegations that Ankara is planning an invasion of Syria come amid what would appear to be growing disconnect between Turkey and the US over their respective ambitions for the region. Notably, Turkey considers the US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria to be terrorists akin to the Kurdish rebels fighting in eastern Turkey, and has recently been sending diplomatic signals to Washington that it is unhappy with America’s support of Kurds.
“We don’t recognize the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] as a terrorist organization, we recognize the Turks do,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said at a briefing.
Turkey summoned the US ambassador in Ankara after Washington announced that it does not consider Kurdish fighters in Syria to be terrorists. The Kurds, however, are not the only issue where Ankara’s ambitions appear to clash with the desires of the White House, and this includes a possible unilateral military intervention in Syria.
At a press briefing, the US State Department chose not to reveal what was discussed at the ambassador’s meeting, but when RT’s Gayane Chichakyan pressed Kirby with a question regarding Davutoglu’s statement on “defending Aleppo,” here is the vague response she received:
“You should talk to the Turks about what they are implying or inferring or suggesting in that statement,” Kirby said. “We continue to believe two things. One, there isn’t going to be a military solution to this conflict. The second thing, we do look for Turkey’s assistance on the military front when it comes to fighting Daesh [IS].”
Kurdish fighters have been known to closely coordinate their actions with US forces in the fight against IS in both Iraq and Syria.While this is far from the first time in the civil war that Turkey seems to be threatening Syria with an incursion, Middle East specialist Ali Rizk warns that Ankara has been behaving “irrationally”and anything can be expected.
“Turkey very much wants to achieve a goal … they have dreams and aspirations about the Ottoman Empire. Those dreams are very much linked to what happens in Syria. Particularly, the northern city of Aleppo, which is considered to be, by the Turkish leaders, part of the former Ottoman Empire … It’s always possible that you might see illogical or otherwise irrational policies being resorted to, be it a ground invasion or be it any military intervention,” Rizk told RT.