On both banks of the Evros River, the interests of states are painted with tears of refugees

Al-Quds Al-Arabi – Mar. 18, 2020, issue 9847, p. 21

In a dark night for the Turkish people and Turkish government with the arrival of the wounded and dead of the Turkish army as a result of their direct targeting by Assad militias in the countryside of Idlib, initial reports indicated that at least thirty soldiers were killed and dozens were injured. This news was a shock for the Turkish people that is already under pressure because of the four million Syrian refugees. It was also a shock to the Turkish government, which announced its mobilization and a closed-door meeting led by Turkish President Erdogan personally and in the presence of senior army and security officers.

European negotiations

Turkish officials have received an accumulated negative stancee from the Russian side, which has repeatedly denied ceasefire in Idlib and its environs, while messages received from “allies” were not as expected. It was this harsh night that prompted Ankara to take sensitive and decisive steps. The reaction was on two fronts. The first was Assad and his allies by launching a squadron of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones to turn Assad convoys into ashes. The second front was where the “allies” are in Europe. The decision was to open the Greek-Turkish border and announce the end of the EU-Turkish agreement of 2016. Amid the complex scene of the Syrian file whiche entered its tenth year and the refugee file temporarily stuck in the drawer for exactly four years, there are alliances at stake and future decisions will be crucial, so we must read the facts again.

On the banks of the Evros River that separates Greece and Turkey, each side has opened a war of words, rhetoric and communication to the other. In the first hours after the Turkish decision, thousands of refugees and immigrants of various nationalities began moving towards the border hoping that it might be the beginning of a better life, while on the other side of the border, the Greek decision was clear not to allow the 2015 scene to be repeated. Athens closed its gates and deployed its coast guard in the Aegean under two big headings. The first was clear: “Europe for Europeans” and the second was superficial with the slogan that Athens refuses to be politically blackmailed through refugee and border card. Ankara has chosen a more diplomatic speech, based on Europe’s failure to deliver on its promises deriving from the 2016 agreement. The visa regime for Turkish citizens has not been lifted as promised, and negotiations between Europe and Turkey on the file of Turkey’s accession to the Union did not progress, as promissed. of Turkey in the Union, as promised. In addition, Europe delayed the payment of 6 billion euros. The rhetoric and excuses of each side were intended to keep the lights off the real reasons behind the Turkish movement and the Greek reaction, in my view, which I will elaborate on below.

On the Turkish coast of Evros

Erdoğan led a meeting of the Turkish National Security Council for six consecutive hours during which plans and priorities of the “allies”, Ankara’s interests and popular sentiment were discussed. Because of all this, the decision to open the border struck two turtles with a spear. First of all, it will absorb the anger of the Turkish people who started boiling when the corpses of Turkish soldiers reached Turkish territory, since the direct confrontation with Assad who has the direct support of Russia and the unlimited support of Iran, Ankara can’t afford it. As a result, the decision to open the border is less costly and satisfies the feeling of a part of Turkish citizens wishing to reduce the number of refugees. Secondly, it relates to Europe’s continued failure to take responsibility for the at least 4 million Syrians living in the last liberated areas of the province of Idlib, who are on the verge of a slaughter by knives sharpened from Beirut to Moscow via Tehran, or become refugees in Turkey, a scenario whose consequences Ankara cannot manage at the level of the people and the economy.

On the Greek coast of Evros

Eight months have passed since Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis took office. Those months have been heavy for the Greek people, who have faced many frustrations domestically with refugee and financial files and abroad with the issue of Turkish hydrocarbon exploration around Cyprus and the memorandum for the demarcation of sea  border signed between Turkey and the Libyan Government of National Accord, which creates a new map to the detriment of Greece. The Greek government appeared to be inferior to the circumstances, something that was perceived by the Greek people. This negative atmosphere prompted Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government to blow the drums of war against Ankara’s decision to open the border and promote the hashtag #Greece_under_attack, which became the most trending in social media from the first moment, while Greek media propaganda stimulated Greek people’s support for the Greek government’s decision to close the border.

This decision was not made by accident but after a thought-out plan for two main reasons. The first is that the government led by the New Democracy party, which lost some of its popularity in the first eight months because of the issues mentioned above, had to fill this gap through a theatrical performance in which the victims are refugees and immigrants and the winner is the government that has presented itself with populist and racist slogans to cover its foreign diplomacy and internal financial weakness. The second reason for this decision was the Greek government’s aim to present itself to European governments, notably Paris and Berlin, as Europe’s strong shield for immigrants and refugees. This decision was highly supported by the official European institutions and governments. European governments have thus provided 700 million euros in initial financial support to the Athens government, demonstrating the quality of those who claim to be civilized and humanitarian.

As smoke clouds of tear gas rise on the banks of the Evros River at the Greek-Turkish border, eyes are shedding blood on the Syrian-Turkish border. A million displaced Syrians fled Assad’s barrel bombs, Moscow planes and knives of Iranian religious militias and betook themselves to Ankara’s borders and interests.

During an emergency visit by Turkish President Erdoğan to Moscow, a new ceasefire agreement was announced, which gave Ankara ample time to rebuild the equation on the borders with Europe on the one hand and read the new US policy in the Syrian file on the other. For Moscow, the agreement will be no different from the previous ones (Sochi and Astana). It is a transitional period in the rearrangement of its cards and then a new battle aimed at ending any presence of the Syrian armed opposition within Syrian territory will start.

As for the free Syrians on the Turkish-Syrian border, the deal was a was a devastating blow to the dreams that were hastily built and quickly disappeared to return to their reality, in a tent that would make it home and build palaces in their dreams. In the narrow limits of their freedom they will build a more humane world. Meanwhile, Idlib is free…