Sochi (AP) - Turkey and Russia have agreed to joint control of areas along the Turkish-Syrian border and initially avoided further escalation of the conflict in northern Syria.
In the agreement concluded on Tuesday evening between Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a 150-hour deadline (approximately six days) was set for the withdrawal of Kurdish militia YPG from border areas. That amounts to another truce. A US-negotiated ceasefire leaked on Tuesday night.
Russia supports the controversial ruler Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict, but also maintains close contacts with Turkey as a mediator. According to the agreement with Ankara, among other things, Russian military police and "Syrian border guards" will support from Wednesday noon the "removal of YPG elements and their weapons" from an area up to 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. After that, joint Russian-Turkish patrols should begin.
With the agreement, Turkey is closer to its goal of a so-called border security zone. It had begun on October 9, an internationally massively criticized campaign against the YPG in the north of the country. Turkey regards the YPG, which controls a large area on the border with Turkey, as a terrorist organization. The aim of the offensive was to create a zone along the border from which all Kurdish militias were to withdraw. From the perspective of Turkey, this approximately 30-kilometer-deep zone from the Euphrates River eastward for more than 400 kilometers to the Iraqi border.
However, both the Russian-Turkish and the US-Turkish agreements of last week made in their short written form - each no more than about a DIN A4 page - not clear which areas it was exactly.
From the point of view of the United States and the Kurds, the agreement negotiated between the USA and Turkey referred to a section of the border between the cities of Tall Abyad and Ras al-Ain, on which Turkey had initially largely concentrated its offensive. However, after agreeing with the US, Erdogan made it clear several times that he expected the YPG withdrawal from a much larger area.
That despite the new agreement with Russia further acts of war are not excluded, showed a warning Erdogan in the late evening on the way back to Ankara: "The deadline of the agreement with the US ends tonight at 22.00 clock. The promises given were not fully respected. As soon as we return, we will get the final results, and if so, then we will take the necessary steps, "he said, according to the newspaper" Hürriyet ". Turkey had repeatedly threatened to resume its offensive if the Kurds did not withdraw their fighters completely.
According to US data, the YPG has meanwhile withdrawn from the agreed areas. Commander of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Maslum Abdi has written to US Vice President Mike Pence. Penza's office said on Tuesday: "The vice-president welcomes this development and sees in it the fulfillment of the terms of the agreement of October 17, concerning the withdrawal of the YPG."
The Ministry of Defense in Ankara noted this early Wednesday morning, but left open whether it considered the conditions to the Kurds actually fulfilled. At any rate, after the agreement with Russia, there is currently no reason to start a new operation "outside the current offensive territory". Further military action within this area - between Tall Abjad and Ras al-Ain - does not exclude this formulation.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) had argued in favor of an international stabilization mission in the contested northern Syria - and continues to be massively criticized. Tobias Lindner, security spokesman for the Greens, told the "Heilbronner Stimme" (Wednesday): "Protected areas in Syria have been repeatedly demanded for several years and have always failed because there was never any consensus between the West, Russia and Turkey , Why suddenly this blockade should dissolve, just because the German Minister of Defense with the proposal again comes around the corner, does not open to me.
The Green Foreign Minister Omid Nouripour criticized above all the lack of coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense. "A minister of defense who publishes its proposals for international crisis management with half-baked proposals contributes to the fact that Germany's reputation as a reliable partner in the international community suffers severe damage," he told the "Passauer Neue Presse" (Wednesday).
The minister was supported by the former Union faction leader Friedrich Merz. Of course, one has to wait and see how the proposal will be made concrete, Merz told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (Wednesday). "But what is important is the signal that we are prepared to assume responsibility for foreign and security policy."