AANES’ elections call for Turkey’s next step in Syria

Residents stand on a street during a joint patrol of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the countryside of Qamishli - February 8, 2024 (Reuters)

Residents stand on a street during a joint patrol of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the countryside of Qamishli - February 8, 2024 (Reuters)


Enab Baladi – Reem Hamoud

With the upcoming municipal elections under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), the political umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), scheduled to be launched on June 11th, official Turkish statements criticizing their organization have begun to emerge. The steps that the SDF is working on are considered an imposition of a “fait accompli” in the region.

In a statement by the leader of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, on May 28th, he called for a joint military operation between Turkey and the Syrian regime to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northeastern Syria.

Bahçeli’s remarks came during a weekly meeting held with his party, which is a key component of the ruling coalition with the Justice and Development (AK) Party in Turkey. He said, “Cooperation with Damascus must be established to eliminate the source of the separatist terrorist organization through military operations and build a bridge of relations to prevent terrorists from invading the region,” according to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Turkish “misjudgment”?

The Nationalist Movement Party’s call for cooperation between Turkey and the Syrian regime came from Turkey’s interpretation of the elections as an upcoming stage for dividing Syria, noting that the United States considers dialogue with the “terrorists” as of strategic importance in the region, according to Bahçeli.

Turkish expert in foreign and security policies, Ömer Özkizilcik, said to Enab Baladi that Turkey’s call for coordination with the Syrian regime stems from its incorrect understanding of it. He pointed out that Turkish security still does not understand Bashar al-Assad and his priorities.

Özkizilcik added that Turkey’s primary priority in Syria is the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the integrity of Syrian territory, while al-Assad’s priorities include the Syrian opposition and staying in power. For him, Turkey is not a potential ally but a threat to Syrian territory.

As a result of this “misjudgment,” Turkey already met with the Assad regime and tried to find common ground, which ended in a “major failure” without achieving significant results, according to the Turkish expert.

Regarding the possibility of a meeting between Bashar al-Assad and the Turkish president, al-Assad said during a special interview with Sky News Arabia on August 9th, 2023, that his goal is the Turkish withdrawal from Syrian territories, while Erdogan’s goal is to “legitimize the Turkish occupation in Syria,” stressing that the meeting cannot take place “under Erdogan’s conditions.”

According to the Turkish expert, if Turkey wants to meet again with the Syrian regime after the failed process, it will be Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who will announce it.

Anas Shawakh, a researcher at the Jusoor for Studies Center, told Enab Baladi that the coordination between Turkey and the Syrian regime is highly unlikely due to the absence of indications or groundwork in reality for joint military operations or other details that would suggest the possibility of coordination.

Shawakh hypothesized that if there were to be a ground military operation, it might occur in coordination with the Russian side and with information or approval from the American side. Meanwhile, the role of the regime in this potential military operation could be limited to the spread of Syrian regime forces in northeastern Syria where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control, as a backdrop to the Turkish-Russian agreement, if it happens.

Messages to the United States

At the end of 2023, the Autonomous Administration released a “social contract” which included changes in names and descriptions, drawing many criticisms of this move. Experts, in previous statements to Enab Baladi, considered it a step to establish de facto authority and not a tendency toward secession. It was expected that neighboring countries, including Turkey, would not accept it, which means that the United States would pressure its Kurdish ally in this regard.

On May 30th, just two days after the statement by the Nationalist Movement Party leader, Devlet Bahçeli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reinforced the statements, saying that Turkey is closely monitoring the aggressive actions taken by the “terrorist organization” (referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces) against the integrity of Turkish and Syrian territory under the pretext of elections.

He added that his country would never allow the “separatist organization” to establish a “terrorist” entity in northern Syria and Iraq beyond its southern borders. He said, “We have done what we needed to before in the face of imposed realities, and we will not hesitate to take action again if we face the same situation,” according to TRT Haber.

In the same context, Erdogan said that the forces supporting the “terrorist organization” would see that nothing can be achieved through the imposition of a fait accompli, explaining that Turkey expects all active parties in the region to understand and respect Turkey’s legitimate concerns regarding this issue.

After this statement, Washington quickly responded. During a press briefing on May 30th, the United States expressed its stance on the elections in northeastern Syria through the spokesperson for the State Department, Vedant Patel, who said that the current conditions of the “crisis” in Syria are not conducive to elections in northeastern Syria.

He added that the United States maintains its position that any elections held in Syria “must be free, fair, transparent, and inclusive.”

During his response to journalists’ questions, Patel stated that UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254 affirmed that any elections in Syria “must be free and fair,” pointing out that his country does not believe that these conditions are currently met in northeastern Syria.


The statement by the Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahçeli served as a message to the United States, not a political proposal. Turkey is aware that it cannot cooperate with the Syrian regime against the SDF, especially since the regime stands on the same front as the SDF against Turkey’s presence in Syria.

Ömer Özkizilcik, Turkish Expert in Foreign and Security Policies


Possible scenarios

Anas Shawakh, a researcher at the Jusoor for Studies Center, told Enab Baladi that the successive statements from the ruling coalition parties in Turkey, the Justice and Development and Nationalist Movement parties, served as a clear warning that can be relied upon to anticipate a military operation in northeastern Syria, or at least a large-scale aerial escalation through an extensive operation similar to what Turkish air forces and intelligence conducted in mid-January.

The escalation is expected to occur in the period leading up to the municipal elections in the SDF-held areas, according to Shawakh. It could target extensive areas, including both military and civilian targets such as infrastructure and gas and oil facilities.

Regarding the scenarios that Ankara could resort to, Turkish foreign and security policy expert Ömer Özkizilcik believes that it could either carry out a military operation with the Turkey-supported Syrian National Army (SNA) or work to eliminate the YPG by agreement with the United States.

From the Turkish expert’s perspective, the United States is very likely to withdraw American soldiers from Syria after the upcoming US presidential elections, scheduled for November 5th.

What is the election issue?

Since the beginning of this year, the Autonomous Administration has announced its intentions to hold municipal elections in its controlled areas. According to a statement on April 29th, it is conducting a population census in its controlled areas in preparation for the elections.

On May 21st, it invited international governmental and non-governmental organizations to monitor the electoral process of the municipal elections.

On May 6th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country had left its work in combating “terrorism” incomplete in Syria due to promises made by its allies that were not fulfilled.

He added, during a speech he delivered after a meeting of the presidential cabinet in the Turkish capital Ankara, that as long as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) can find a place to live in Syria and Iraq, Turkey cannot feel safe.

Turkey classifies the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on its “terrorism” lists, as does the United States and the European Union.

Ankara considers the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) an extension of the PKK, which the forces deny despite admitting the presence of PKK leaders under its umbrella.


النسخة العربية من المقال

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support