Following a total of 4 hours and 20 minutes of talks carried out in Turkish Presidency in Ankara on October 16, Turkey agreed to suspend its military campaign into Syria on the condition that the U.S. will withdraw the YPG militia out of a 20 miles (32 km) depth and some 440 km long “Safe Zone” in Syria along the Turkish border in 120 hours, or five days. According to consecutive statements made by the U.S. Vice president Mike Pence and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu separately, if Americans will be able to clear the area from YPG, an affiliate of the outlawed PKK, together with the weapons provided by the U.S. to fight against ISIS and all military facilities, Turkey will stop the military campaign and the sanctions on Turkey imposed by the U.S. will be lifted.
The United Nations has welcomed the agreement.
Turkey has been asking for a safe zone in Syria, along the Turkish border against the YPG/PKK since the former U.S. President Barack Obama had picked them as their ground force against ISIS in 2014, despite Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s objections and offering NATO ally Turkey’s cooperation. Erdoğan’s spokesman and top Security and Foreign Policy advisor İbrahim Kalın said on October 15 that Turkey had launched the military campaign on October 9 to establish the safe zone by its own power because the talks with the U.S. have been going on for nearly a year and did not bear any result. If the deal possible works, at the end of the 5-day suspension Turkish military will assume control over the safe zone to return nearly one-million of some 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the country, who had originally migrated from that area. That is supposed to be valid until a political solution is reached for Syria, through the Geneva Conference. Pence said Turkey has to work out solutions for the control of the Syrian territory with Russia which supports Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime.
A Russian delegation was also there
It is not a coincidence that a Russian delegation was in Turkish Presidency on the same day that Pence and his delegation were there for crucial talks.
As Jim Jeffrey the American Special Envoy for Syria and U.S. Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield were waiting to be received by Erdoğan, as members of Pence’s delegation, Russia’s Special Envoy Aleksandr Lavrentyev and Ankara Ambassador Akelsey Erkhov were carrying out talks on Syria with Kalın and team in another room of the Presidential compound.
Erdoğan had had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day before agreeing to meet him in Sochi next week. Russia already revealed that Turkish and Syrian delegations from defence and foreign ministries and intelligence were in “real time” contact thanks to their facilitation. Agencies reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif agreed on the phone on October 17 that they should help the Ankara-Damascus dialogue as well as the dialogue between Damascus and Syrian Kurds, for the sake of long-term stability in North-East Syria.
The first response of Damascus to the Turkish-American deal was that they do not want a “Kurdistan in Syria”.
Trump’s scandalous letter to Erdoğan
VP Pence arrived in Ankara together with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien under the heavy psychological atmosphere of a letter written by Trump to Erdoğan on October 9 asking him to negotiate with the head of the YPG instead of venturing a military operation. His remarks as “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” in the letter (apparently given by himself to Democrats) had triggered outrage against Trump in Turkish public opinion. Erdoğan was also criticized by the opposition for not strongly responding to Trump instantly.
When asked in the press conference, Çavuşoğlu said that Erdoğan would not get down to the level of language used by Trump and the American public opinion have already found it inappropriate. But Trump tweeted once again following the deal and said that “tough” love brought result. Showing Trump’s attitude, only minutes ago, he had thanked Erdoğan for his leadership.
“Spoiling many plots with one move”
Erdoğan seems to take Trump’s provoking and humiliating words on the chin but Turkey achieved, a great deal of Syria goals, and to be frank, thanks to its military campaign, perhaps a bit more than its persistent diplomacy.
In a surprising move, Turkish centre-left opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) gave its cautious blessing to the deal. CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told YetkinReport that “At least the clashes are suspended, no one will die”. CHP Deputy Chairman Ünal Çeviköz considered the outcome of the talks as “positive for Turkey”, with a reservation that the next five days should be watched carefully.
Another outcome of the 5-day deal for Turkey was that an American President went on the record that the “PKK was probably more dangerous than ISIS”; something that Erdoğan would not say, considering all terrorist organizations as equally dangerous.
The deal, if the promises are kept, could be regarded as an important step towards the Geneva Talks for the “new Syria”.
“We spoiled several plots regarding our region with one move”, Kalın said proudly, implying the operation “Peace Spring” into Syria.