Warning of Turkish intentions to annex areas of northern Syria

Ankara invests in measures to persuade Syrian refugees in Turkey to return to Syria

Turkey has announced through its Official Gazette that it will open a medical school and a health vocational school near the Turkish border in Cobanbey (Al-Ra’i), Syria.

This predominantly Turkmen town under Syrian control is located in the northern part of Aleppo. The medical school will be established under the guidelines of the Turkish University of Health Sciences. 

Turkey’s Harran University established a university campus in Al-Bab to provide trilingual education in Turkish, Arabic and English. In Idlib province, Turkey’s Diyanet Foundation opened a primary school for 1,100 students in November 2020.  

Although some experts see these moves as a boost to the region’s war-torn social infrastructure, others believe that Ankara may face accusations from Syria of foreign meddling that violates its territorial sovereignty.

Turkey has been building hospitable university faculties since 2018 in Syria. Even in Afrin, Al-Bab and Idlib thus encouraging the return of Syrian refugees. Even the Turkish lira is also used in the district of Cobanbey and Al-Bab.

The Turkish Ministry of Health has also completed three hospitals in Al-Bab, Marea and Cobanbey with a total capacity of 475 beds. Ankara hopes to persuade millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey to return with these improvements to Syria. So far, however, it has not had great success.

Turkey’s infrastructure and humanitarian aid projects, according to anatist Samuel Ramani of Oxford University for the Middle East, should be supported by Syrians in rebel-held areas. Because humanitarian aid through international organisations such as the UN is biased in favour of the Al-Asad regime and Russia.

Atalayar_Convoy militar turco en Siria
Residents watch as a Turkish military convoy that crossed the border into Syria passes through the town of Hazano

“But the Syrian government will resist Turkey’s humanitarian intervention and claim that it is a violation of sovereignty, and Turkey will face friction from Russia and Iran on this issue,” Ramani told Arab News.

He said that even if Turkey is undermining the rule of a UN-recognised government in Syria, there is nothing more the community or legal institutions can do.

He added that “Turkey could perhaps invoke a variant of the Responsibility to Protect to justify its actions, as it is protecting the human security and health of Syrian civilians at a time when the Syrian government of al-Assad is not fulfilling its sovereign responsibilities to protect civilians.”

Syria’s official state-run Syrian news agency SANA, meanwhile, reported on Sunday that Syria will reject Ankara’s decision to open a college and a school. Because it considers this a dangerous act and a blatant violation of international law as well as the UN Charter.

SANA’s report, based on an official source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, said that “this invalid decision constitutes a continuation of the Turkish regime’s practices of inflaming and prolonging the crisis in Syria”.

“Syria claims that these attacks by the Turkish regime on its sovereignty, including the construction of the so-called (separation wall) and the adoption of the ‘Turkification’ policy in schools, in addition to trading the Turkish lira and opening an authority for the Turkish Post, have been the pretexts behind which this regime hides to justify its terrorist practices,” the source said.

Atlantic Council non-resident senior fellow Jomana Qaddour said the Turkish government had been connecting northern Syria to his country through water and electricity supplies, security and the provision of humanitarian aid in general.

“While there is a great need for accredited educational projects in Syria, given that so many students have been deprived of educational programmes for years, it is important that any educational initiative incorporates local educators and the needs of the local population. It will take local involvement and participation for this to be a welcome effort for Syrians,” he told Arab News.


Arab Observer

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