Journo: Path to Settlement in Syria Must Go Through Damascus not Washington

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the United States of not upholding the Syria deal reached last month, ahead of his visit to Washington next week.

Erdogan has said the US is not fulfilling its promise to facilitate a 30-km (20-mile) pullback of the Kurdish YPG [People’s Protection Units] forces from northern Syria along the Turkish border.

“While we hold these talks, those who promised us that the YPG… would withdraw from here within 120 hours have not achieved this”, the Turkish President said on Thursday, during his visit to Budapest, Hungary.

Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish militias in northern Syria on 9 October to secure its borders and create a “safe zone” to resettle Syrian refugees after US President Donald Trump announced that American troops were withdrawing from the area.

On 17 October, the US and Turkey agreed on a 120-hour ceasefire that would allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.

As the five-day ceasefire expired, Turkey and Russia reached a deal to pull the Kurdish fighters back within 150 hours. Under the agreement, Turkish forces would remain in the 120km-long strip of territory that they seized during their offensive, while the rest of the border area would remain under the control of Syrian troops and Russia. Ankara and Moscow also agreed to establish joint patrols in the zone of the operation in northeastern Syria.

But Erdogan says that Washington and Moscow have failed to deliver the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces from the border area.

“Neither the United States, within the 120 hours, nor Russia within the 150 hours, were able to get the terrorists to leave the region”, Erdogan told reporters in Budapest.

The Turkish president said he would raise the issue in his meeting with US President Donald Trump on 13 November in Washington.

On Wednesday, the office of the Turkish president confirmed that the meeting would go ahead, after a phone call between the two leaders.

Initially, some Turkish officials expressed doubt about the need for this visit and believed it might be cancelled after a vote by the US House of Representatives recognised the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide. House lawmakers also passed legislation calling for sanctions on Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria.

Turkish journalist and political observer Mehmet Ali Güller says that it is hard to predict the outcome of Erdogan’s upcoming visit to Washington.

“In general, it is difficult to give a clear answer to the question of what should be expected from Erdogan’s visit to the US on 13 November. The fact is, Ankara must understand that the path to resolving the Syrian issue, which is in its interests, lies not through Washington, but Damascus”.

“However, if we talk about the expectations of the Erdogan administration for his visit, then we are talking mainly about cancelling the decision to impose sanctions on a number of Turkish officials and the proper implementation of the Turkey-US deal”, Güller said.

The journalist also pointed out that Turkey, having negotiated agreements on the northern Syria settlement with both the US and Russia, is seeking to leave room for manoeuvre.

“As you know, first Ankara entered into a ceasefire agreement with the United States for 120 hours; then a memorandum was signed with Russia to cease operations for 150 hours. As a result, instead of the planned 480-km safe zone, it managed to achieve the formation of only a 120-km zone. The Syrian government forces entered the 360-kilometre area to the left and right of the territory of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring”.

Noting that Turkish interests are directly related to the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria, Güller stressed that this is the reason why Ankara needs to cooperate with Damascus, regardless of whether Ankara signs a second deal with the US during talks.

“Over time, without reaching an agreement with the Syrian authorities, this situation will begin to work against Turkey. Therefore, the Turkish public should make every effort to convince the ruling party (AKP) to negotiate and negotiate not with Washington, but with Damascus”, Güller concluded.

“However, if we talk about the expectations of the Erdogan administration from his visit, then mainly we are talking about cancelling the decision to impose sanctions on a number of Turkish officials and the proper implementation of the Turkey-US deal”, Güller said.

The journalist also pointed out that Turkey, by having negotiated agreements on the northern Syria settlement with both the US and Russia, is seeking to leave room for manoeuvre.

“As you know, first Ankara entered into a ceasefire agreement with the United States for 120 hours; then a memorandum was signed with Russia to cease operations for 150 hours. As a result, instead of the planned 480-km safe zone, it managed to achieve the formation of only a 120-km zone. The Syrian government forces entered the 360-kilometre area adjacent to the left and right of the territory of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring”.

Noting that Turkish interests are directly related to the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria, Güller stressed that this is the reason why Ankara needs to cooperate with Damascus, despite Ankara possibly signing a second deal with the US during talks.

“Over time, without reaching an agreement with the Syrian authorities, this situation will begin to work against Turkey. Therefore, the Turkish public should make every effort to convince the ruling party (AKP) to negotiate and negotiate not with Washington, but with Damascus”, Güller concluded.

Sputnik

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