The deal signed between Turkey and Russia has one clear premise: to establish a terror-free northern Syria for refugees to return to
Recently, a new chapter began in Syria triggered by Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring that ended with a deal with Russia on Wednesday. This new chapter has a clear vision: a terror-free northern Syria under the control of Turkey and Russia that will facilitate the return of displaced Syrians; however, despite the clarity of the premise, the details of the deal have raised questions like how things will operate and who will control where, and prompted misleading rumors that created false impressions. On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. As a result of the meeting, the two leaders announced that they had reached a deal with 10 articles that would bring peace to northern Syria while eliminating Turkey’s national security concerns and enabling Syrian refugees to return to their hometowns. “The main point for us [Turkey] is to put an end to the presence of the PKK, the YPG [the PKK’s Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units] and other terrorist groups as well,” said Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's presidential communications director, regarding the country’s aim while coming up with the deal.
According to the deal, the two sides reiterated their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of the national security of Turkey. The deal also states that there is an emphasis on “determination to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations and to disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory.” “The YPG will withdraw 30-35 kilometers away from Turkey’s Syria border. This is a very clear result. This is vital throughout the border,” Altun told the Hürriyet daily on Thursday. Expressing that the 10-kilometer-long areas are only the regions where Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols, Altun stated that these areas will not be present everywhere.
“Russia guaranteed us that the YPG will retreat 30 kilometers. Russia will also be a strict follower of this [retreat process] as much as we [Turkey] are,” Altun said, highlighting that the joint patrolling areas should not be confused with the YPG retreat area. The deal suggests that a joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum as both sides will take necessary measures to prevent the infiltration of terrorist elements. Altun further clarified the details of the deal that might be misunderstood otherwise. “The reason why Qamishli was excluded from the deal is the fact that the province is already under the control of Russian and regime soldiers. They do not want to come across us there. We also share similar thoughts,” said Altun, adding that since the very beginning, the plan for Qamishli has always been this way. The deal expressed that “starting at noon on Oct. 23, 2019, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30 kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours.” However, it added that at the same time, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will also start west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10 kilometers, excluding the city of Qamishli.
Altun further corrected a misunderstanding, saying that it is not true that the YPG terrorists will settle in Qamishli and in fact, they have already started to leave the area. “Russia will be the guarantor of this,” he said. Qamishli is located on the border with the Turkey, near the Turkish city of Nusaybin. Much of Qamishli was controlled by the YPG with which the United States has partnered in its fight against the Daesh terror group, though certain neighborhoods and buildings remain under regime control. Last week, the province was taken under Russian and regime control as YPG terrorists started to leave the area. “A significant portion of the safe zone is under the control of the Syrian National Army (SNA), and there is nothing in the Sochi deal that would require the Turkish military to retreat from the region,” the communications director expressed. Altun also rejected the claims suggesting that Turkey had to recognize the Bashar Assad regime in an indirect way through this deal. “There is no way of deducing this outcome from the deal no matter how hard one tries. In the deal, there is a series of action plans that Turkey and Russia will conduct jointly. However, none of the articles suggest that Turkey and the regime will act together,” Altun underlined. He indicated that at some points where Russia acts alone, the country may prefer to act together with the regime forces, which depends solely on Russia’s preferences. “Even though we would prefer otherwise, Russia has been cooperating with the Syrian regime, meaning there has never been a time that Russia and the regime’s ties were interrupted and later recovered through this deal,” Altun said. “Both sides reaffirm the importance of the Adana Agreement. The Russian Federation will facilitate the implementation of the Adana Agreement in the current circumstances,” the deal states, which raises questions regarding the possibility of coming to terms with the regime. The Adana Agreement was signed between Turkey and Syria in October 1998. It clearly stated that Syria would not allow any PKK activities within its borders and would block any terror activities that would threaten Turkey's sovereignty. Despite being the ally of Turkey in the region and cooperation to come up with a political solution to the Syrian crisis through initiatives such as the Astana summit, Russia has been a backer of the Syrian regime for years, even assisting it in its attacks on civilians. Regarding Turkey’s diplomatic efforts during this process, Altun said the fact that the country has made a deal with both Russia and the U.S. and this does not have to be mutually exclusive. “Within the concept of multiple alliances, Turkey does not have to choose one side over the other,” he said.