Why the Russian – Turkish Agreement, on the Ceasefire in Rojava, is Better Than the U.S. – Turkish Deal for the Syrian Kurds

Jwan Dibo
Jwan Dibo

On Tuesday, 22 October, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an agreement in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, that ended the Turkish aggression in north and north-eastern Syria. After several hours of marathon talks between Putin and Erdogan, a new agreement was emerged on the ruins of the former American – Turkish agreement on the same dilemma.

Russian president has succeeded in the point where Trump, and vice president, Mike Pence, have failed. Putin has halted the Turkish unfair war against Kurds and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while, Trump has only paused the war temporarily for 120 hours. Like American -Turkish agreement, Syrian Kurds and SDF were also the main losers in Russian – Turkish deal. However, the intrinsic difference between the two agreements was that the American – Turkish shameful deal was a tactic move by Trump to avert more criticism by his Republicans as well as by his opponents, viz. Democrats, whereas Russian – Turkish agreement was a strategic move or a step of the inclusive Russian strategy and policy in Syria.

During the joint press conference that was held by Putin and Erdogan in the wake of six hours of uneasy talks, the Russian Tsar stated that Kurds are an important component of Syria and Kurdish problem in Syria should be resolved soon. He advised that serious talks between Syrian Kurds and the government in Damascus should be commenced shortly, in order to solve disputable issues. Likewise, Putin did not label Kurdish Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as terrorist groups as Erdogan wished. For sure, all these points were not compatible with Turkish Sultan’s temperament and desire.

The U.S. – Turkish deal came totally in favour of Turkey and at the expense of Kurds and SDF. In other words, that unfair deal can be described as an unconditional surrender by U.S. to Turkey. Under that ominous agreement, Turkey could occupy all north and northeast Syria under the pretext of establishing a “safe zone” to resettle 3.6 million Syrian refugees who live in Turkey since 2011. This, in turn, will lead to massive demographic changes in Kurdish areas in Syria, as Turkey has long since planned. Turkey intends to relocate pro-Turkey radical groups of Syrian Turkmen and Arab onto the “safe zone”, these groups who are known for their strong antipathy and aversion towards Kurds.

Another unfair condition in U.S – Turkish deal was that YPG and SDF must withdraw their forces up to 20 miles from the Syrian – Turkish border line and to hand back their heavy weaponries. As a result of Turkey’s commitment to ceasefire, U.S. will eliminate all the previous sanctions that were imposed on Turkey or those that U.S. intends to impose soon because of Turkish invasion of western Kurdistan. Put simply, the American – Turkish agreement had no features and it reflected the absence of a candid American strategy in Syria, especially, towards Kurds and their future in Syria.

In contrast, the Russian – Turkish deal was evident and vibrant to a certain extent. It enforced Turkey’s Erdogan to revert to Adana agreement that was signed between Turkey and Syria in 1998. This came on the contrary to malicious expansionist intentions of Turkey to occupy more of Syrian territory under the reason of its national security concerns. Even, it can be said that the declared articles included in the agreement between the two countries came to an extent unlike to Turkey’s anticipations and demands. According to Adana agreement in 1998, Turkey has a full right to incuse militarily into Syrian lands up to 10 kilometres to hunt down PPK’s fighters and affiliated organisations.

But the recent agreement between Russia and Turkey maintained the status quo, so that the area extending from Ras al-Ain (Sere Kanieh) to Tel Abyyad (Gere Sepi), which is 120 km long and 32 km depth, remains under Turkish control. The rest areas starting from Ras al-Ain to the far northeast except Qamishlo and from Tel Abyyad to Manbij will be underwent to joint Russian – Turkish patrols to 10 km depth on the basis that each time Turkish forces to go back to Turkey after finishing the mission. YPG and SDF will be forced to withdraw from the Syrian -Turkish border line up to 32 km. The situation and future of YPG, SDF and Self-Administration in north and north-eastern Syria will be determined within the talks they have already begun between Kurds and SDF from one side and the Syrian government from the other side.

The Russian – Turkish deal was widely perceived as a new victory for Moscow’s strategy and agenda in Syria because it bolsters Russian’s new role as prime player in Syria as U.S. leverage wanes incrementally. For Turkey, the deal did not come as Ankara has planned. It is right that U.S. has given a green or an orange light to Turkey to invade the Syrian Kurdistan on 9 October, but the very fast involvement of Russia into the unstable northeast Syria surprised Ankara’s and perplexed its expectations to a specific scope. For Kurds, the deal can be understood as a poor result for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), yet, the options available to Kurds and SDF are less than few given their size, influence and role compared to other players in Syrian crisis.

The issue here is not about morality, justice and conscience as much as it is about power and interests, in which the righteousness and fairness of the ancient Kurdish tragedy cannot be seen amid this contaminated international climate. Kurds and SDF have only two options; either to accept and obey Russian and Syrian regime unjust conditions or to confront the second power in NATO which means that their existence as people and political player will be at stake. As a result, the Russian deal with Turkey over the present and future of Syrian Kurdistan is better than American deal. The Russian Tsar has curbed – at least in the foreseeable future – the illegitimate aspirations of the Ottoman sultan, whereas Trump through his abrupt and arbitrary policies and decisions has encouraged Erdogan to wage the war against Kurds and to threaten their presence and to occupy more Syrian territory.

Jwan Dibo