UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — On October 22, in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan agreed on coordination in Northern Syria and the future of Turkish Operation Source of Peace.
The parties agreed, in particular, to suspend Ankara’s hostilities against the Syrian Kurds for another week (until October 29), withdraw Kurdish formations from all over the buffer zone and create joint (depending on the area) Russian-Turkish and Syrian-Russian patrols. In fact, the guarantor of the implementation of the agreements is Moscow.
Moreover, it was decided that subsequent Turkish actions in Syria should take into account the principle of the territorial integrity of this state and be based on the Turkish-Syrian Adan agreement of 1998. They will also be included in the so-called Astana peace process (under the auspices of Russia, Turkey and Iran).
Russian-Turkish negotiations were conducted in connection with the ongoing operation of the Turks in Syria from October 9, the real purpose of which is to break up the parastate Kurdish structures created by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in the north of this country, to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the joint border ( length of 480 and a width of 30 kilometers) and at the next stage to relocate there part of the Syrian refugees in Turkey (their total number is 3.6 million people, and the Turkish authorities talk about the possibility of resettlement 2 million).
The implementation of these plans would completely change the ethnic structure of the population of the border zone.
The Turkish operation was suspended on October 18 under US pressure. Before the ceasefire came into force, the Turkish army and the subordinate units of the Syrian opposition managed to occupy a relatively small territory between the cities of Ras al Ain and Tell Abyad. The strategic points that were the aim of the operation, consistently captured the Russian and Syrian units.
Turkey sees in the Sochi agreement a chance to at least to a minimum extent fulfill the tasks it has set for itself. It actually legalizes Turkish steps in Syria (in particular, the 1998 Adan Agreement allowed the fight against the PKK in the border zone), provides for significant restrictions on the PKK activities (exit from the border strip, subordination to Moscow and Damascus), and at the same time avoids confrontation with Russia.
They managed to achieve these goals, despite the fact that Ankara was sharply criticized by the West, who spoke, in particular, about the possibility of imposing sanctions in connection with the Turkish attack on the Kurds. In the context of domestic politics, the agreement is perceived as a great success of Erdogan.
From a broader perspective, however, it sets the very limited borders of the Turkish presence in Syria, transfers the Kurdish issue to Moscow and makes Turkey dependent on the Russian position on the priority security issue. In the context of the fact that American troops left Syrian territory in October and Russia has a dominant position in the Syrian theater of operations (an attack on the opposition-controlled Idlib area is expected), the agreement signifies Ankara’s strategic dependence on Moscow.
The Sochi accords are a huge success for Russia. After the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, it became the main military force and a leading political arbiter in the area of the Syrian conflict. The agreement confirms that it is able to impose its decisions on both Turkey and the Syrian leadership (it did not participate in the negotiations) and the Kurds (in early October they controlled a third of Syrian territory and enjoyed US support), while ignoring the interests of allied Iran.
Now Russia is a recognized leading player in the Syrian conflict. On a supra-regional scale, it takes advantage of the differences between Turkey and the United States, subjugates Ankara and takes a strong position in negotiations with the EU countries on the further development of the situation in Syria (including on the topic of preventing the escalation of refugee problems and terrorism).
The Sochi agreement, regardless of whether problems arise during its implementation, clearly shows that the Syrian conflict is moving to a new stage. At this stage, the USA is already absent, the Kurds, together with their political and military structures, have lost their previous role, and the Turks had to moderate their appetites.
In modern realities, thanks to the peace process under the dictation of Russia in the Astana format, the work on the political settlement of the conflict (including, in particular, the creation of the Constitutional Committee) and the military superiority of the Russians (one can expect an attack on the last region controlled by the opposition) there will appear the prospect of achieving a turning point in the confrontation and intensifying efforts to overcome it.
The question remains how quickly it will be possible to normalize the situation in Syria, what will be the conditions for the Turkish presence (in particular, in the Afrin region and in the territory west of the Euphrates), as well as what position Iran will take, which is alarmed by the growing imbalance in relations with allied Russia. It is also unknown who will finance the restoration of Syria. A massive return of refugees, it seems, is not to be expected. All these problems, however, will be resolved on completely new conditions.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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