Erdoğan's Syria plan could have EU support

Though European security experts are generally skeptical about a plan Erdoğan presented at the UN General Assembly, it does not mean Germany or France will reject it right away.

Ayşegül Karakülhancı

Democracy has drifted away from being a system that is immune to populism. For a long time now, the choice of the majority has become a manipulation tool that serves the interests of populist leaders.

The political and economic situation that prevails in many countries is conducive to the rise of authoritarian strongmen. Against this backdrop, power-hungry leaders are often elected. Such leaders use their democratically-gained power to overlook the supremacy of justice systems.

They change the system by way of the system's laws. Then they long for days when political power was almighty. As Vladimir Putin seeks a return to czardom, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks the sultanate, Boris Johnson cherishes the British Empire and Donald Trump pursues the "great America" ideal.

Unfortunately, the state of affairs we're in only serves to keep these leaders in power for long. Few are the political leaders that discuss an equal and fair income distribution or social justice. There are no leaders or countries that are to provide a sensible solution to heavy global issues such as the climate or refugee crisis.

In 1964, Che Guevara delivered a historic speech at the UN summit, stating the UN must act to protect the independence and interest of all member countries. "We would like to see this Assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We would like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wants to turn this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the serious problems of the world. We must prevent it from doing so. This session of the Assembly should not be remembered in the future solely by the number 19 that identifies it. Our efforts are directed to that end."

Che was right. The UN has become a street fair, far from solving the world's problems. What Che had said back then was that the UN ought to make it possible for countries with differing socio-economic systems to live alongside each other peacefully.

Unfortunately, the UN never succeeded in becoming able the organization Che wished for and demanded and it continues to lose its importance every day. Contrary to its set objectives, the UN has turned into a platform for power-loving populist leaders, elected by their loyal people, to announce how they will pillage their countries, while looking at you straight in the eyes.

Turkish President Erdoğan, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, discussed the details of the safe zone he wants to create in Syria. "First of all, our intention is to create a peace corridor 30 kilometers deep and 480 kilometers wide in order to provide housing for 2 million Syrians, with the help of the international community", he said. The population in the area Turkey plans to establish for Syrian refugees is predominantly Kurdish, yet the vast majority of Syrian in Turkey are Arabs. On that account, it would not be wrong to assume Turkey is making attempts at altering the area's demographic structure, given most of the immigrants it would send there would be Arabs. We also know there are European countries ready to support this plan. First and foremost is Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis who spoke to the German newspaper Die Welt last week. Babis maintained "The objective must be to make refugees return to their homes. Not just those living in Turkey, also those present in Europe. In order for this to happen, we need to talk to President Erdoğan, before everything else. He has a concrete plan on how to help refugees." Of course, no one discusses the risks entailed by this plan. Before Erdoğan even spoke at the UN, his plan was already being promoted and lauded. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if Orbán's Hungary were to follow in Czechia's steps.

The reason Turkey has allowed passage for refugees into Greece since August, so as to increase pressure on Greece, is not financial, it is to gain support for the Syria plan from EU countries, especially Germany. A small migration movement towards Europe could cause panic in European countries, and provide the support Turkey wants. So far, it seems like the plan is working.

UN meetings on 24 September featured a meeting between Turkish President Erdoğan and German Chancellor Merkel, architects of the controversial refugee deal. Details of the meeting were not shared but it is highly likely the Idlib process and refugee deal were discussed. Ankara's plans for a new safe zone in Turkey were doubtlessly considered as well. While European security experts are generally skeptical about the plan Erdoğan presented at the UN General Assembly, it does not mean Germany or France will reject it right away.

The only thing we know for sure is that the US rejects Turkey's plans for a safe zone and all other possible plans related to it.