(GPA) Ankara – Turkish authorities have released a statement that a wall to seal off the border with Islamic State (IS) controlled northern Syria is expected to be completed by late February.
Turkey has long been under pressure by their NATO allies to do more to seal off their border with northern Syria to halt the flow of foreign militants seeking to join IS and other militant groups. This comes after over a year of having either porous border regions or border crossings seemingly directly controlled by IS.
This may come as a surprise to some people as it was previously, seemingly Turkish policy to have lax border controls for the exact reason of allowing militants to flow into Syria. The flow of militants was used between 2011-14 as a weapon against Turkey’s enemy, Bashar Assad in Syria to promote the destabilization of the country. Some sources speculate the US and European partners weren’t concerned either since, before the panic caused by IS, militants going to fight Assad were seen as a good thing.
Even after the coalition against IS was formed, Turkey was still accused of allowing militants to flow into Syria and IS oil to be transported out. Most of these accusations came from Russia before they started repairing relations with Ankara but the US State Department confirmed that at least the rumors of oil crossing the border were true. It’s not hard to believe that Turkey may be complicit in these matters as it was helpful in targeting both Assad and the Kurds in the area.
With those accusations being almost certainly true to some extent, it has lead several groups including the Kurds and human rights organizations to believe there’s likely an ulterior motive for the wall.
Facing a constant conflict in the southern regions of the country, Turkey would probably like this Wall as a tool to combat Kurdish fighters moving back and forth between conflicts in southern Turkey and northern Syria. Turkey has already backed ‘rebel’ offensives in northern Syria to push the Kurds away from their border and cut them off from other Kurdish factions.
While the Kurds have their concerns over the new wall, human rights groups are also criticizing the wall for it’s other purpose; to be used as a tool to further the Turkish “weaponization of refugees.” Turkey is still technically in the application process of joining the European Union – although there has been some issues with the post-coup crackdowns by the Erdogan government – and the wall could help them claim they have migration under control as further incentive to speed up their acceptance. They could further be rushed into membership depending on the outcomes of the case for the U.K. invoking article 50 of the EU charter to leave the confederation.
The wall will have multiple advantages for Turkey if it really locks down their border the way they say it will, although the border they share with Iraq will still be open. The most likely scenario is that the Turkish government will use the wall’s construction as a symbolic show of good faith in order to keep making demands from western allies who are somewhat locked in a relationship with the rogue NATO member.