Shoug Basim Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish president have agreed on a so called, “historic” deal with the aim of keeping Kurdish forces away from the Syrian border with Turkey. Under the deal, Syrian and Russian forces will monitor the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.
However, fighting persists as Erdogan presses ahead with his military operation against Kurdish fighters in north-east Syria. Erdogan says his offensive operation aims to remove the Kurdish-led forces from the border region and create a “safe zone”, to which millions of Syrian refugees can be “returned”. The move was initiated after the United States announced it was withdrawing its troops from the region, leaving the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as their main ally, in the battle against ISIS.
US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had travelled to Ankara last week to press Turkey to halt its offensive, the White House said in a statement. But it is now clear that the Russian President is the real power-broker. Pence will meet with Erdogan during the visit.
Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said “Turkey had no right to deploy its forces in Syria permanently.” Speaking to journalists in Abu Dhabi about the Turkish military operation, Lavrentiev said that, according to earlier agreements, the Turkish military can only cross 5-10km into Syrian territory.
“We didn’t agree with the Turks, any questions about their presence in Syria and we don’t approve of their actions,” he added. Kurdish fighters battle to defend the key northeastern Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain from Turkish-backed forces as Russia seized on a US withdrawal to move its troops into new areas in the region. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, called for a meeting of the international coalition against ISIL to discuss the situation in northeastern Syria.
The crisis of refugees has wider implications for Europe. Speaking at the National Assembly, Le Drian acknowledged there was “some trouble” in the relationship between the European Union and the US. “That is why the coalition needs to meet,” he said. He also called on both the US and Turkey to outline to allies how they intend to keep fighting ISIL.
Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said it was in his country’s interests for Turkey to return migrants to Syria instead of allowing them to make their way to Europe. Szijjarto told Hungarian state media that Hungary was “looking exclusively at its national interests in this matter, not the interests of others”.
“Turkey should resettle the migrants in Syria and not open the doors to Europe for four million migrants,” he said. Turkey vowed to pursue its Syria offensive and slammed a “dirty deal” between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Kurdish forces after the withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria.