Turkey had long vainly campaigned for the establishment of a “security zone” along its border with Syria. The agreement between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday evening took a decisive step closer. Because in return for a suspension of the operation “Peace Spring”, which is initially scheduled for five days, the American delegation agreed to three Turkish demands: Thus, in addition to the creation of a security zone, the Kurdish “People’s Defense Force” (YPG) from this zone withdraw. Furthermore, Syrian refugees from Turkey are to be resettled.
Pence had arrived to negotiate an end to the Turkish military operation in northern Syria, which had begun on 9 October. Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had spent more than four hours negotiating with the US delegation, which included Vice-President Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo, and James Jeffrey, the Commissioner for the International Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia. The agreement includes 13 points. Another success for Turkey is that Washington waives the sanctions it has announced for the military offensive that disapproves of both America and Europe. On Thursday evening Cavusoglu said: “We got what we wanted”.
American delegation agreed to three Turkish demands
It is already controversial what the term “truce” has to mean. Pence sees this as the beginning of a permanent ceasefire, but Turkey only a temporary ceasefire. The YPG militias would have to withdraw from the area during this time. Turkish government circles say that it is now up to the YPG how quickly they retreated, dismantled their military facilities, and rendered the tunnels they used unusable. Turkey has resources to verify that. However, this task falls to the American side.
The resilience and enforce ability of the US-Turkish agreement was already on Friday in question. The “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), dominated by Kurdish free-killers, accused Turkey of continuing their attacks. They reported shelling in Ras Al Ain. Erdogan denied the allegations.
Syrian refugees from Turkey are to be resettled
It is also unclear that the Syrian Democratic Forces are in fact ready to support the agreement. They had just allowed the units of the Assad regime to invade the conflict region – with the aim of preventing what the US-Turkish agreement now demands. SDF commander Mazlum Abdi said: “We will do everything we can to make the ceasefire a success”. But he also made it clear that a Turkish presence in the contested border region was unacceptable. According to Abdi, the SDF only wants to deduct from a 100-kilometer stretch of land between the cities of Tel Abyad and Ras Al Ain on which the fighting is focused. That would be less painful for the Kurdish forces given the Turkish terrain gains in the area.
As far as the planned settlement of refugees is concerned, Turkey is against the idea of seeking a change in the demographic structure and linking this with the forced settlement of refugees. Rather, voluntary repatriations. Only Syrians who have fled this region would be settled, according to government sources. Europe should participate in the costs, said Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on Thursday evening.
Erdogan’s foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalin had also been conferring with a Russian delegation on Thursday evening in the presidential office, parallel to the Erdogan and Pence negotiations. These had been routine consultations with Russia. One topic was the situation in the Syrian rebel province of Idlib, in which apparently 1.5 million inhabitants are ready to flee if the Syrian regime forces launch an attack.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet next Tuesday, the fifth day of the ceasefire agreed by Erdogan and Pence. This shows that with the withdrawal of the United States from Syria, which continues with the agreement on Thursday evening, the power that falls to Russia is growing. Against the will of Moscow, Turkey will not be able to enforce its plans.