Spotlight: Turkey achieves military objectives in northern Syria through deal with U.S.

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-18 23:17:49|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ANKARA, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The agreement reached between Turkey and the United States on Thursday for a 120-hour cease-fire in northern Syria and the retreat of the Syrian Kurdish forces will secure the operational goals of Ankara, according to experts.

The settlement would largely solidify the position of Turkey with regards to clearing its border of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as "terrorists," Huseyin Bagci, a professor of international relations at the Middle East Technical University, told Xinhua.

"Turkey will achieve its military objectives of the Operation Peace Spring if the deal is implemented as agreed," he said.

The expert recalled that the U.S.-Turkey consensus essentially gives Ankara what it wanted from the military incursion in northern Syria, which is the 20-mile (about 32 km) retreat of the YPG from the Turkish border.

Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reached an agreement on Thursday after hours of negotiations, which demands the YPG fighters to vacate a swath of territory in Syria along the Turkish border.

Pence announced that the agreement envisages a 120-hour cease-fire for withdrawal of the YPG fighters to 20 miles south of the Turkish border and after the full retreat of the Kurdish fighters, Turkey would permanently halt its military incursion and establish a safe zone in northern Syria under the control of Turkish forces.

U.S. President Donald Trump, striking the deal with Ankara, underlines his leverage in the region and positions himself as the protectors of the Syrian Kurds here, Bagci noted, recalling domestic debate in the United States after its president's decision to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria, a move that is considered as "betrayal" to Kurds.

The Kurdish forces in Syria had been a major ally of the U.S. forces in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremists there.

While both Trump and Erdogan consider the deal as a "win-win" situation, Ankara seeks more to secure its borders.

On Friday, Erdogan said that a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is another phase of the safe zone process.

"Turkey's safe zone plans collide with Manbij, Air al-Arab (Kobane) and Qamishli towns where the regime (Syrian government) has entered," Erdogan said, noting that he wants to have an agreement on the issue during talks in Sochi of Russia next week.

"We aim to reach an agreement that is acceptable for all parties. But we have only one condition, clearing off the YPG presence there," he told journalists in Istanbul.

"It is not a problem for us that the regime will control these regions," he added.

Turkey's political objectives with the Operation Peace Spring included also a full withdrawal of the YPG across the entire Turkish border area and the return of Syrian refugees to the zone, Bagci said, adding that however, the Syrian government forces have been advancing towards the Kurdish-controlled regions.

Therefore, a meeting between Erdogan and Putin in Sochi on Oct. 22, the last day of the 120-hour truce, is important to ensure Turkey's border security, according to the expert.

"This meeting is crucial for ending the presence of YPG fighters in Manbij and Kobane" where the Syrian government forces entered over a deal with the Syrian Kurds, Bagci noted.

Russian soldiers and the Syrian army have attempted to take control of parts of northeastern Syria previously controlled by the YPG after Trump withdrew U.S. forces from the area.

"With the deal, Trump will declare victory for himself and the United States will withdraw from Syria, then the future of Syria will be shaped based on negotiations between Turkey and Russia, who is on behalf of the Syrian government," Mustafa Aydin, an expert at the Kadir Has University, said.

Erdogan's upcoming meeting with Putin will take shape based on the extent to which the Turkey-U.S. cease-fire agreement will be implemented, he emphasized.

Recalling that Ankara has urged Moscow to remove the YPG members in the area controlled by Syrian government forces, Aydin stressed that the talks in Sochi may lead to communications between Ankara and Damascus.

He also said that the Turkish security officials have already been in contact with the Syrian officials on the ground in Syria.