An outburst of riots in Syria’s north, liberated from terrorism with the backing of Türkiye, sparked concerns for provocation earlier this week. Several were killed during the riots that targeted Turkish flags and trucks carrying Turkish license plates, as well as military observation points in Syrian opposition-held areas.

Defense Ministry sources said Türkiye was closely following provocative acts in Syria against Türkiye by “certain groups” and took necessary measures to prevent their repeat. Sources said Ankara would never allow further riots and warned against a provocative online campaign while assuring the calm was restored in opposition-held areas.

One day, after xenophobic riots broke out in central Türkiye over the alleged sexual assault of a child by a Syrian refugee, angry mobs staged protests in several Syrian towns close to the border. Some tore down Turkish flags, while others attempted to bring down flags erected near the border. Mobs also burned down trucks carrying goods to and from Türkiye. Unconfirmed reports say seven armed rioters were killed in clashes with local forces, including six in Afrin and one in Jarablus, during riots on Monday.

Sources said Türkiye had no other purpose for keeping troops in Syria other than eliminating terrorist threats and attacks targeting its territory, something in line with its right of self-defense, protecting its borders and preventing the establishment of a “terror corridor through fait accompli.” The YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist group, which killed thousands of people in Türkiye, controls portions of northeastern Syria adjacent to territories controlled by the opposition, which liberated them from the YPG and Daesh with the assistance of the Turkish army. The area is near the border with Iraq, whose north hosts a mountainous stronghold of the PKK. Sources said Türkiye was looking to ensure the eradication of terrorism in Syria and maintain the territorial integrity of the country hit by civil war, adding that Ankara also aimed to restore political stability and peace.

Riots in Türkiye and Syria followed statements by top figures from both countries willing to normalize relations that were shelved after the beginning of the unrest in 2011. Shortly after Bashar Assad signaled steps to normalize ties, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed that they were looking to restore relations.

The Damascus-based regime and Ankara sought reconciliation in 2023 with talks sponsored by Assad’s main backers, Russia and Iran, but so far, meetings of Turkish and Syrian regime ministers have failed to produce a solid result in normalization.

“There is no reason not to establish (relations with Syria),” Erdoğan told reporters last month. He emphasized that Ankara has no plans or goals to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs. “Just as we once developed relations between Türkiye and Syria, we will act together in the same way again,” he added.

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