Gazete Karınca published an interview from DW Turkish that had been made with James Jeffrey, the previous United States Special Representative for Syria. Jeffrey shared his assessment regarding the current situation in Syria and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the possible impact of the new Joe Biden US administration on Turkish-US relations.
“We could not persuade Turkey on one issue. The coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, or Daesh), which consists of 80 countries, was in a desperate situation in 2014. The coalition supported the People’s Protection Units (YPG) because they were fighting ISIS and no one was fighting ISIS except for them”, said Jeffrey, who had very close relations with Turkey during the period of the US President Trump administration.
Jeffrey: ‘I do not want to share any comment on Turkey’s internal politics’
Jeffrey pointed out that during the time that the coalition was supporting the YPG, the US was also in very close cooperation with Turkey: “We were on the same side. In fact, Turkey helped the US to carry out its military operations in northeastern Syria in 2017”, he said. “However, suddenly Turkey started to claim that what we were doing in Syria was a threat to Turkey. Turkey insisted that this would end with ‘a PKK state’ in the northeast of Syria”.
“Since our troops withdrew from much of the northeast, much of the area is now under Russian control. We don’t understand the Turks. However, now it is clear that if they have an issue with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or with the YPG, then they will have to deal with the Russians first”, he said. When Jeffrey was asked why Turkey had changed its attitude, he said: “Internal politics, it’s very simple, but I do not want to share any comment on Turkey’s internal politics”.
Jeffrey: ‘The S-400’s are a disaster for Turkey’
Jeffrey also stated that the crisis between the US and Turkey over the deployment by Turkey of Russian S-400 missiles has not been solved. “The S-400’s are real obstacles against the development of Turkish-American relations. We stated it to Ankara many times, but they did not listen to us. The S-400’s are a disaster for Turkey: it is a very big mistake that Turkey bought them”, he said.
“Turkey will never have F35’s now. Turkey bought the S-400’s” for a significant sum, “but it does not make Turkey a more secure country. It has to spend more than 100 billion dollars for a new system to benefit from this missile defense system”. According to Jeffrey, Turkey is faced with two options to solve this problem: “Either Turkey will sell these missiles to another country or keep them in a box, otherwise Turkish–American relations will get worse”.
Jeffrey: President Erdoğan violated an agreement with the US
Regarding the future of US relations with Turkey under the Biden administration, Jeffrey stated: “I don’t expect any improvement. Turkey missed the opportunities that Trump offered. President Erdoğan did not take positive steps or change his attitude. Has he taken any steps towards a solution with regard to the S-400s? No. Has he done anything with us about northeast Syria? No. We had an agreement reached in August 2019, but President Erdoğan violated this by sending his troops to Syria in October.”