(October 23, 2019 / JNS) Russia has deployed troops to the Syria-Turkey border a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that his country and Russia had reached a “historic” agreement to remove all Syrian Kurdish fighters from that region.
“According to this agreement, Turkey and Russia will not allow any separatist agenda on Syrian territory,” said Erdoğan, speaking alongside Putin at a press conference following the meeting in Sochi, Russia.
The YPG will have 150 hours to retreat around 20 miles from the border.
Turkish forces will continue to control the area they took during last week’s incursion into northern Syria. Turkey committed to create a safe zone along the border for the approximate 2 million Syrian refugees that Turkey hosts.
U.S. President Donald Trump stated on Wednesday that a “permanent” ceasefire in Syria has been reached, and that all U.S. sanctions enacted against Turkey will be lifted.
“I have, therefore, instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed October 14th in response to Turkey’s original offensive moves against the Kurds,” said Trump.
The president expressed confidence that Turkey would do its part to maintain the peace in northern Syria, where the United States withdrew its troops on Oct. 6.
Trump said that a small number of U.S. troops will remain in Syria to protect the region’s oil, despite claiming that the United States is getting out of the country after a decade.
“These events elevate Putin’s growing Middle East sway, positioning him as a mediator at the expense of the U.S. This is a win for him,” Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told JNS. “Turkey, meanwhile, continues to fall into Putin’s sphere of influence. Putin has worked for years to build leverage over Erdoğan.”
However, the Russian public has appeared not to support Russia’s activity in Syria.
Fifty-five percent of Russians want the country to exit Syria, according to a recent poll by the Moscow-based Levada Center.
“This deployment in Syria is still fairly limited, and frankly, the Kremlin-controlled press can spin things any way they want to. But the key point is that it’s a very small contingent. Putin has been careful not to turn Syria into another Afghanistan,” explained Borshchevskaya. “And because this is a small contingent, Russia probably can keep this up. There is, of course, a greater risk to Russian troops now being stuck between Turkish and Syrian military—a risk if there is a clash.”
“Ultimately, what Putin wants is a resolution to the Syria crisis on his terms,” she continued. “And he is closer to that resolution. Erdoğan had long since stopped saying ‘[Syrian President Bashar] Assad must go,’ and he may very well have to accept Assad in power as part of a broader deal with Putin on northeast Syria.”
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