Opinion: Ankara attack isolates Turkey | Opinion | DW | 18.02.2016
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Opinion: Ankara attack isolates Turkey

The terrorist attack in Ankara and its stated connection to the Kurdish YPG is a dangerous turn of events. Turkey needs to avoid boots on the ground in the Syrian conflict, says DW's Seda Serdar.

The Turkish capital was hit by another terror attack after the blast in Ankara in October. It comes at a time when Turkey feels trapped and is not seeing eye-to-eye with its long-standing allies in the Syrian conflict. The timing of the Ankara attack that killed at least 28 people seems to prove Turkey's point regarding Kurdish groups in the region.

Fighting on multiple fronts

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed the terrorist organizations Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and People's Protection Units (YPG) for the attack. While the PKK is internationally viewed as a terrorist organization, this is not the case for the YPG, which is the armed wing of Syria's Democratic Union Party (PYD) and is considered to be the Syrian affiliate of the PKK by Turkey.

However, Turkey's strongest allies in the fight against terrorism, including the United States and the European Union, regard YPG/PYD as a strong actor in the fight against the "Islamic State" (IS) militants. Even though this has always been the case, recent developments along the Turkish border and the establishment of Kurdish cantons in northern Syria have threatened Turkey's political red line. The shelling of the YPG was a response to its fire towards Turkey. Turkish warnings over the past week did not make clear enough to the international community how ardently Ankara is opposed to letting the YPG be seen as a party worthy of negotiating with.

Following the Ankara attack, the government's desire to sign an anti-terror act in parliament was shoved aside by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which is furious about the government's crackdown on the PKK in eastern Turkey. This is yet another indication that the government is unable to unite the country - not even in extreme situations. But it also shows that the HDP is not willing to sign an act that denounces the PKK.

State of isolation

Turkey's desire that the refugee crisis would push the international community to find a quicker solution to the Syrian conflict didn't quite work out. Ankara's aspiration that this would be consistent with Turkish interests was also unrealistic. The no-fly zone that Turkey had been insisting on saw some recognition from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, it was too little, too late.

Even though the Syrian war is an international problem going back to President Barack Obama's "red line," the aggressive Russian intervention and the numbness of the international community, Turkey is at the forefront of the conflict. Its inability to solve its Kurdish problem at home, and to allow it to escalate because of its policy towards the Syrian Kurds, has left Turkey alone and vulnerable.

Up against Russia

This isolation could turn into more aggression. Turkey has pondered having boots on the ground in Syria, something that the US has been dreading from the beginning of the conflict. If the country's security is threatened, the Turkish government has made it clear that it will do everything in its power to protect it.

The Ankara attack and its stated connection to YPG is a very dangerous turn of events. Turkey needs to avoid any military confrontation in Syria. The conflict in eastern Turkey has already claimed hundreds of lives. The government's biggest possible mistake would be to destabilize the region even further. In his most recent remarks, Prime Minister Davutoglu pointed to the PKK's connection to the former Soviet Union, adding that the terrorist organization has been used by other countries ever since. Escalating the current tensions between Russia and Turkey will do the latter more harm. If Turkey engages in a military confrontation on the ground in Syria, it will be even more isolated than it already is now.

Turkey needs to set its priorities straight. It is facing multiple problems: The Kurdish issue at home, the refugee crises within and at its borders and, last but not least, the Syrian conflict and the international tensions this conflict is creating between Turkey and all the actors involved. The government has to prioritize its goals. Turkey urgently needs a sound foreign policy and a clear plan to solve issues internally, including the refugee crisis and terrorism.

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