Mick Wallace: Turkey should make a 'safe zone' on its side of the border

It is unfortunate that the Kurds have been left in a vulnerable position

Photo: Maria Koleva Mick Wallace

The Turkish military forces have crossed the border and gone into the sovereign country of Syria. That is a clear violation of international law and of the sovereignty of Syria's borders. This is an invasion and calling it something else would be a lie. If Erdogan release 3.6 million people, Europe has to deal with it, says Mick Wallace, MEP from GUE/NGL Group, in an interview to Europost.

Mr Wallace, are there direct threats for Europe in the context of the new Syrian crisis after the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria?

I don't believe that US troops should ever have been in Syria, because Syria is a sovereign country and America invaded it. So, it is good that they go home. It is unfortunate that the Kurds have been left in a vulnerable position because of it, but the Americans have no place in this country anywhere. As regards whether there are direct threats for Europe, for a long time the whole region has been in turmoil. Most of the turmoil has been caused by the United States and the European powers, which have engaged on the pretext that they want a better world, but it really is financial imperialism. They looked to make money off these states, they wanted resources in different places, they made regime changes in several of these countries. So, there is nothing new about the region being destabilised. The threat to Europe is really not different from what it has been for a long time.

There are estimates that hundreds of foreign fighters from Europe are detained in the north-east of Syria where the Turkish military operations are running. What will happen if they succeed to escape in the created chaos?

There are a lot of foreign fighters in Syria that shouldn't be there. A lot of them ended up in the north of Syria, especially in Idlib. The Syrian government have offered them to the Western powers but the Western powers didn't want them. Turkey allowed many of these fighters to cross their border and enter Syria. Saudi Arabia facilitated a lot of these terrorists going into Syria. And the Western powers, the Saudis, Israel, the US and Europeans armed these people. If detained foreign fighters escape from the prisons and detention centres, what to do with them all? I would say each country should take responsibility for its own citizens.

Do you mean that the EU governments should stop being reluctant to receive back foreign fighters who are their nationals, and their wives and children?

As I've said, I think each European country should take care of the individuals who are their nationals. If, for example, somebody from Turkey is a fighter in Syria and has to leave, it's Turkey's responsibility, if they come from France - it's France's responsibility, if they come from the UK, it's the UK's responsibility. Each country should take care of its own people.

Is there a real risk ISIS to be revived and to regain strength in the Kurdish-run territories?

Not if the northern territories go back under the control of the Syrian government and the jihadists are removed from the sovereign country of Syria. I don't see ISIS being a problem. ISIS became a problem because the sovereign state of Syria was invaded and the jihadists caused total turmoil and created a situation where ISIS could flourish. I don't see ISIS regaining control there, provided the countries that are in Syria get out of it and the jihadists that are in the country get out of it. I think things can gradually come back to normal. It will take a long time but at least the process could start.

Do you expect the rift between Turkey and NATO to deepen?

No, I don't. What Turkey is doing is terrible, but this country is a NATO member. The pact members do not devour each other, they tolerate a lot from their own. I think NATO is not going to turn on Turkey. They will issue hard words, but nothing serious. If it is somebody else, maybe. NATO countries will stick together. In my opinion, Turkey will do what it likes and NATO will not interfere.

Turkish President Erdogan recently threatened Europe with a new migrant crisis, saying “if you try to present our operation as an invasion, we will open the doors and send you 3.6 million migrants”. Is the bloc ready for such a huge flow of people at its external borders?

It is an invasion. The Turkish military forces have crossed the border and gone into the sovereign country of Syria. That is a clear violation of international law and of the sovereignty of Syria's borders. This is an invasion and calling it something else would be a lie. If Erdogan release 3.6 million people, Europe has to deal with it. There are over 65 million people displaced globally due to military and economic activities by the big countries of the world, the developed countries. They are exploiting countries, they are dropping bombs on countries, and they are creating refugees. So, I believe that Europe should facilitate more refugees, particularly when the refugees have nowhere to go. It will not happen overnight, it will be a gradual process, but Europe has to take responsibility. Europe helped and facilitated the bombing of many of the homes of these people now looking to come here. Also, the sanctions against Syria need to be removed, because if it happens, it will make it easier for Syria to enable the return of many migrants.

What will be at stake in terms of security in the region if Ankara succeeds to establish its plan for Syrian 'safe zones'?

If Turkey creates what it called 'safe zones' along its border without infringing on the Syrian territory, then that is fine. They cannot take over some of the land of Syria because it belongs to that country. They can create a 'safe zone' on the Turkish side of the border, and I am sure they can be responsible then for their own security in the region.

Was it possible for the EU to give a more decisive answer to Turkey's military action in north-east Syria?

It was possible but the EU didn't do it. One of the reasons why the Israeli defence forces can shoot children in Palestine is because Europe stays silent. Europe turns a blind eye likewise with Turkey. Erdogan can invade Syria like that and can attack Kurds like that, because Europe does not deal with him. Just “it is bad to do that” and a little slap on the wrist, but it comes to nothing. Today there was a protest by Kurds in front of the Parliament. Since I got elected to the EP and we came on 2 July, the first time I saw barbwire outside the Parliament was for the Kurdish protest. There were many protests out there and there was no barbwire.

What do you think should be the future of the EU-Turkey deal on migration, signed in 2016?

The truth is that Europe is spending crazy money now, instead of looking after the migrants, treating them properly and helping them to make a new life across Europe because here there is a room for plenty of them. The money is spent for building higher fences, on security, on border reinforcement. This deal with Turkey is part of that: “You keep them, you put them in cages, don't let them come to us, we will pay you.” I disagree with that. I think the EU should take responsibility for the damage they've done to these migrants who are trying to come to Europe. Why the British, the French and the German are still giving arms to the Saudis to destroy the people of Yemen. Do they care for the people of Yemen, or the people of Yemen do not count. What happens now in Yemen is a disgrace, it's a humanitarian disaster.


Mick Wallace is an Irish member of the European Parliament from the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) since July 2019. He sits in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, and is part of the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula. Wallace is a substitute member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Delegation for relations with Iran, and the Delegation for relations with Afghanistan. Mick Wallace is member of Independents for change (Ireland). From 2011 to 2019 he was a Member of the Irish Parliament for the Wexford constituency.



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