By Janet Ekstract
İSTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Just hours before the U.S. five-day ceasefire of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring was to end, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a six-hour negotiation, signed what he deemed a “historical memorandum” with Russian President Vladimir Putin that is supposed to resolve the otherwise tenuous situation on the Syrian-Turkish border.
At a joint news conference earlier on Wednesday, both Erdogan and Putin commented on the agreement with Erdogan explaining: “We’ve signed a historic memorandum with Putin for the territorial and political integrity of Syria and the return of refugees.” Putin added: “..crucial decions” were taken to help “resolve the rather acute situation that has developed on the Syrian-Turkish border.”
Meanwhile, a statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry Hulisi Akar said: “At this stage, there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area.”
Prior to the Russian agreement, Erdogan had met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice – President Mike Pence, agreeing on a 120-hour ceasefire and to limit Operation Peace Spring to a 120 kilometer and 30-kilometer deep area between the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Then on Tuesday, in Sochi when Erdogan met Putin, the two leaders reached a deal that would offer joint coordination on patrols and coordinated action with Syrian forces to remove Kurdish fighters from the area within 150 hours from noon on Wednesday with the ultimate goal of securing the remainder of the frontier.
Initially, President Trump wanted to withdraw only a small group of American troops then calling for a total American withdrawal from Syria which both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress saw as a “dangerous move” and a path for the Islamic militant group ISIS (Daesh) to recoup their initial strength.
The current agreement between Turkey and Russia is set to return large swaths of Syrian territory controlled by Kurdish elements, YPG, to allow each country greater input on what postwar Syria will look like.
In addition, Turkey’s agreement with Russia, Assad’s ally in the Syrian war, provides greater assurance for Turkey that Kurdish elements will be kept far away from the Turkish border.
Turkey regards the Kurdish elements, YPG as hostile. These elements are known to be linked to separatist insurgents, PKK that Turkey has fought against since the mid-1980s and had taken over a third of Syria during the eight-year civil war. PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union and has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.