As soon as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the formation of his new government, which held its first meeting on Tuesday, questions were raised over Türkiye’s approach to the Syria.
In fact, the new government lineup includes three ministers who have extensive experience in handling the Syrian file, and knowledge of the minutes and details of the Russian-sponsored talks aimed at normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus.
The new foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, is the former intelligence chief, who initiated the first contacts with Syria and laid the basis for launching the talks through his meetings with head of the Syrian National Security Bureau Ali Mamlouk.
Moreover, Turkish intelligence, under the leadership of Fidan, carried out sophisticated operations targeting leaders of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the killing of the supposed leader of ISIS, Abu al-Hussein al-Qurashi in Jandris, northern Syria.
Turkish intelligence has established an effective presence in northern Syria under his leadership.
Ibrahim Kalin, former official spokesman for the presidency, was named as Fidan’s replacement as head of intelligence.
Kalin is also strongly involved in the Syrian file, as he was a security advisor to Erdogan, and used to handle contacts with Russian and American representatives, as well as European officials and various circles engaged in Syria.
New minister of Defense Yasar Guler is a former army chief of staff. He participated and supervised the four Turkish military operations in northern Syria from 2016 to 2020. He was commander of the ground forces during the Euphrates Shield in 2016 and the Olive Branch in 2018, then chief of staff as of 2018. He also supervised the Peace Spring operation in northeastern Syria, and the Spring Shield in Idlib in 2020.
In a statement after being appointed to his new post, Fidan stressed that he will continue to maintain an independent national vision for Türkiye. The new defense minister also confirmed that Turkish forces will maintain their tasks in preserving the country’s security and combating terrorism.
Both statements point that there would be no change in Türkiye’s current policy towards Syria, politically or on the ground. The normalization talks will continue, while a military withdrawal from northern Syria will not be imminent.
A meeting of the Quartet Mechanism to develop a roadmap for normalization between Türkiye and Syria is scheduled to be held later this month. It will include the deputy foreign and defense ministers, and officials from the intelligence services of the two countries, along with Russia and Iran, within the framework of the Astana track.