U.K. Must Challenge Turkey to Make Progress on Syria, Panel Says

  • Cameron needs to match rhetoric with resources: lawmakers
  • Erdogan's `shameful' policies hurting fight against extremists

The U.K. should challenge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “shameful” policies toward the Kurds and improve dialog with Russia if progress is to be made against Islamic State in Syria, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.

The fight against the Islamist extremist group, also known as ISIL, should also be prioritized over finalizing a deal for political transition in Syria, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report published on Thursday. It criticized Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to put enough resources into the Foreign Office’s diplomatic efforts to find a solution.

“President Erdogan’s increasingly shameful domestic priorities and repressive policies have driven the PYD (Syria’s main Kurdish party/grouping) and its associated YPG militia into the arms of the Syrian regime and Russia,” the report said. “Since Syrian Kurdish forces have proved effective allies in the fight against ISIL, this is working directly against shared international priorities.”

Britain should press Turkey to stop attacking YPG forces, even if it meant jeopardizing Turkish co-operation over refugees traveling to the European Union from the Syrian civil war, the panel said. Cameron has failed to match his rhetoric to diplomatic action, it said, and needs to do more rather than relying on the U.S. to deliver a solution.

“It is not acceptable for the U.K., in return for Turkish co-operation on EU migration priorities, to turn a blind eye towards the brutal Turkish government suppression of legitimate Kurdish aspirations at home and in neighboring states,” the report said. The Foreign Office “struggles to have the capacity to deploy properly resourced teams,” it added, and “reinforces the impression in the mind of our principal ally that the U.K. is another “free rider”,” it said, referring to comments made by President Barack Obama about the commitment of allies earlier this month.

Emphasis should be placed on persuading the Syrian government and opposition to find common cause in defeating Islamic State, the report said, and the international community shouldn’t wait until a deal is agreed to replace the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“The fight against ISIL cannot wait for a comprehensive peace settlement,” the panel said. “In the short term it is imperative that the Cessation of Hostilities be maintained, and that all parties arrive at a preliminary political accord, so they can then focus their attention on the fight against ISIL.”

Britain also needs to improve dialog with Russia, especially Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to increase its influence in the region, the panel said.