Turkey and Russia have decided to cooperate in the area to the east of the Euphrates River over the positions of troops in the region and their coordination after the U.S. decision to withdraw from the area. The two countries are also reported to be considering following a path in the northern province of Manbij similar to the one established previously in the northwestern province of Idlib. The plan to cooperate was reported following a top meeting in Moscow between the two countries. Last week, a delegation from Turkey led by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu went to Russia to hold talks about Syria with their Russian counterparts.
"We reviewed the steps we took in the Sochi process and what steps we will take from now on regarding Syria," Çavuşoğlu said after the 1.5-hour meeting with the Russian foreign and defense ministers, adding that Turkey and Russia share the common goal of clearing all terror organizations from Syria.
Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey will continue close cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and regional issues.
On Sept. 17, Turkey and Russia signed the Sochi deal, which established a cease-fire in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria, on the condition that heavy arms and extremist groups would withdraw from the region.
Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib were to remain in areas where they were already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.
Prior to the agreement, the Bashar Assad regime was signaling an expansive military operation in Idlib, sparking fears in the international community of a new humanitarian crisis. The deal received support by many in the international community, including the United Nations.
Now that Turkey is escalating its efforts for an operation to the east of Euphrates, which was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month, while working with other states regarding the post-U.S. presence in the region, according to the reports, YPG brings terrorists from the east of Euphrates to the province. However, some of the senior commanders of the terrorist organization are also reported to be fleeing to Raqqa and Qamishli and losing their connection with the terrorists from the lower ranks. Thanks to this lack of authority, the civilians in the region who have been oppressed under the YPG rule for quite some time have started to leave the province.
Last month, the terrorist organization forced men living in Manbij to take up arms against Turkey by recruiting at least one young man per household, said civilians who escaped from the YPG-held area and took shelter in Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held Jarabulus. Civilians added that people live in fear under the YPG, and if they had the opportunity, they would escape from the city. Media outlets also reported last month that the terrorist organization is forcing local people to protest against Turkey's possible military operation east of the Euphrates by sending threatening notices to a hospital in the region. According to the notice, the hospital administration, doctors, nurses and employees were asked to attend the protest held yesterday. The notice said if they do not attend the protest, they would face "the consequences." Meanwhile, in operation east of Euphrates, the Turkish military is once again planning to cooperate with FSA as was done in two previous operations of the country. However, this time, it is reported that the FSA fighters that will join the operation will be chosen from among the ones who are former locals of the region. The reason behind this decision is that the local FSA members will be familiar with the geography of the region and the residents of the area will show greater support for the operation once they know their fellow locals are fighting for them.