The talks of the Russian and Turkish Presidents in Sochi lasted almost seven hours and resulted in signing a joint memorandum. In this document, Recep Tayiip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin stated political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and also confirmed their commitment to ensure security of the Turkish republic. They stressed their countries’ determination to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and to resist separatists’ encroachments on the Syrian territory. The memorandum also stated that the established status quo in the current Operation Peace Spring area covering Tel Abyad and Ras Al Ayn with a depth of 32 km and the width of 120 km will be preserved.
That means that Turkish troops will not go outside this 120 km corridor. Instead, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will start removing Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their weapons to a distance of 30 km from the border area. This process should be completed on October 29 and after that those areas with a depth of 10 km from the border will be controlled by joint Russian-Turkish units. However, they will not enter the city of Qamishly – it will be controlled by the units of the Syrian government army, which will also control the cities of Manbij and Tal Rifat.
The memorandum also states such tasks as facilitating safe and voluntary return of refugees to the territories liberated from Kurdish units, and preventing infiltration of terrorists. The parties to the agreement also face other tasks considering that it is important not only to establish a security zone on the Turkish-Syrian border, but also to continue fighting against the terrorist threat that comes not only from YPG, as Ankara believes, but also from those insurgents who are now in Kurdish prisons in northeast Syria.
According to informed sources, there are seven prisons on the territories controlled by the Kurds, where about 15,000 diverse bandits are being held in captivity. Twelve thousands of them are being held in the three biggest prisons – Shaddali, Hasakah and Allya. These are the nonhumans (no one have a heart to call them “people”) who beheaded Kurds, raped their women and ripped open the bellies of their children. The Kurds who guard them in prisons want to reveal the role of each of them and bring them to a fair trial giving them what they “deserve.” The hasty and unplanned withdrawal of YPG units from these territories weakens the security of the prisons. There have been riots there already and some thugs managed to break free. They can mingle with refugees and get away from fair punishment. By hook or by crook, they can find ways to return to their countries, which is unacceptable. Speaking at a press conference after the meeting of the Russian and Turkish leaders, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu pointed at such a threat. He also drew the attention of journalists to another important task – identification of each of the detained terrorists and making a full record of their crimes. Who will do this work if the Kurds leave their posts in the guarded prisons, what norms of the international law can and should be applied to them? These questions need to be answered and these tasks require keeping terrorists in places of their detention.
There is one more issue that neither the Presidents of Russia and Turkey, nor their ministers of foreign affairs and defense touched upon in Sochi. This is the fate of refugees, not only of those who are now in Turkey and on whose return to the border security zone Mr. Erdogan is insisting, but also those who are now staying in displacement camps in the province of Al-Hasakah and Deir Ez-Zor in northeastern Syria. There are also a lot of them – more than 120,000 in eight zones. Some of those camps are very big – for example, 68,000 women, children and elderly people stay in Al-Hol, near Qamishly. There are also smaller camps for 600-800 people like the one in Jayshiyah. But they all share same misfortunes – terrible living conditions, or rather lack of basic conditions for living, lack of water, sewage, medical care, nutrition. This leads to humanitarian disaster, outbreaks of infectious diseases – hepatitis, intestinal disorders, tuberculosis and pediculosis.
So far, it remains unclear how to solve these problems. Moreover, the global community, represented by the leading powers (the United States, Canada, the European Union) and other states that have announced sanctions against the so-called “Bashar al-Assad regime”, does not want to know about it. They do not want to think about catastrophic consequences of possible epidemics of infectious diseases that may spread outside those camps. It is time for North America and Europe to think about the humanitarian and medical consequences of their sanctions policies, both in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
And speaking of the United States – it was not difficult to notice that at the press conference after their seven-hour talks in Sochi, Putin and Erdogan did not say a single word about the presence of US forces in northern Syria and on their role in ensuring peace and security in the area. Nothing was said about it in the joint memorandum either. One can find different explanations for this “omission.” It can be that by the order of President Donald Trump the Pentagon hastily withdrew its troops from the north of Syria, abandoning the armed Kurdish units to their own devices, actually betraying them in the face of the Turkish invasion. One can also say that the US troops did not play any serious role in the fight against international terrorists, despite the fact that the American leader never gets tired of saying everywhere that it was the U.S. that defeated the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in Syria. Of course, this is an exaggeration to put it mildly, if not an outright lie. Washington did not fight the Islamic State but took care of it, setting it on the overthrow of the legitimate Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad. It was only Russia’s comprehensive assistance and support of Syria, including Russian armed forces, that made it possible to almost completely clear the land of the Syrian Arab Republic from international thugs. But that is not the point right now.
The meeting and negotiations between the presidents of Turkey and Russia in Sochi showed that the visit of a big American delegation led by US Vice President Mike Pence to Ankara and their talks with the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan were practically useless. Not because the Americans failed to fulfill their commitments – to pull back the Kurdish forces to a distance of 32 kilometers from the Syrian-Turkish border in 120 hours – as they stated in Washington they had accomplished this task. It is because Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to offer Turkey and Syria a program to strengthen security on their border, to establish peace in the areas freed from American troops. Incidentally, the joint memorandum signed by the Turkish and Russian leaders in Sochi did it.
One more detail – the U.S. lied once again. Washington did not completely withdraw the US troops from northeast Syria. Some of them are still deployed on the territory behind the Euphrates to protect the oil fields of American private companies. Donald Trump said that it was necessary to prevent the plundering of oil wealth, which belongs to the Kurds. In plain English, this means that the Americans actually came to Syria not to primarily fight terrorists or to overthrow the “anti-democratic regime of Bashar Assad” with the help of these terrorists, but to pursue its exceptional commercial interest and to raise dividends from taking possession of the Syrian oil. Even today, Washington cannot give up this predatory plan.
But whatever it was… The joint memorandum and the talks between the Presidents of Russia and Turkey in Sochi, implementation of the goals and objectives the two leaders agreed upon give Syria and the Kurds in the north of the country a chance to secure peace in the region and to find a political solution of the Syrian conflict within the framework of “the Astana mechanism” and to create the Constitutional Committee, which should work out the principles of the future structure of the Syrian Arab Republic, which will suit all the conflicting parties. This should be done on condition that the sovereignty and unity of Syria is preserved throughout its territory and without the destructive participation and unacceptable interference of the United States in the internal affairs of this Middle Eastern state.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.