Damascus ready to cooperate with Ankara if it withdraws from Syria

The Syrian government says it could cooperate with Turkey if it stops violating the Adana Agreement and withdraws from Syria.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian government says it could cooperate with Turkey if it stops violating the Adana Agreement and withdraws from Syria, pro-government news agency SANA reported on Saturday.

According to a Syrian Foreign Ministry official, since 2011, Turkey has violated the Adana Agreement with its support for terrorism “through financing, training, and facilitating the passage of terrorists into Syria.”

In 1998, Turkey and Syria signed the Adana Agreement, which allows Turkey to enter five kilometers deep into Syrian territory if Turkish security is threatened.

The Adana agreement came after years of water disputes between the two countries, and Damascus’ hosting of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Ocalan was expelled on Oct. 9, 1998, before his capture one year later in Kenya. The Adana Agreement was signed on Oct. 20, 1998. Until now, Ocalan is imprisoned in Turkey.

For years, Turkey has supported armed rebel groups who have fought against the Syrian regime.

Since August 2016, Turkish-backed rebel forces and the Turkish army had taken over large tracts of territory in northern Syria when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield in north Aleppo. In March 2018, Turkey took over Afrin, and there has been a Turkish military presence in Idlib since October 2017.

Turkey is “occupying Syrian territories through the terrorist organizations affiliated to it or through the Turkish military forces directly,” SANA quoted the Syrian Foreign Ministry official as saying.

The official added that the Adana Agreement could only be fulfilled if “the situation on the borders [returns to] the way it used to be.”

The Foreign Ministry official called on Turkey to withdraw its armed forces from Syria, “so that the two countries can activate this agreement, which ensures safety and security of borders between them.”

On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Adana agreement gives his government the right to enter Syrian territory, TRT World reported.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued in a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart that the “1998 treaty between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Turkey is still valid, and it deals specifically with the fight against terrorism.”

“I think this is the legal framework that covers many issues relating to ensuring Turkey’s security on its southern borders,” Putin stated, noting that the two leaders discussed the issue “thoroughly and intensively.”

On Jan. 14, US President Donald Trump tweeted that a 20-mile “safe zone” would be created in northeastern Syria. Erdogan then said Turkey could set up such a safe zone some 30 kilometers deep into northeastern Syria in coordination with the US. However, Damascus has rejected Turkey’s plans.

Nicholas Heras, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security in Washington DC, told Kurdistan 24 that “the prospect of an indefinite Turkish occupation over hundreds of kilometers of Syrian territory is a non-starter for Damascus.”

“Although the Russians are trying to entice Erdogan to choose Moscow over Washington by floating a limited Turkish buffer zone in the areas east of the Euphrates, Assad and his regime view any continued Turkish presence in Syria as a dangerous precedent,” Heras said.

“Russia wants to use the bugbear of the PKK to pressure Erdogan into re-normalizing Assad.”

However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “does not want to use the Adana Accord to condone a Turkish land grab,” Heras explained, “especially when so many members of his regime are convinced Turkey is trying to create a Northern Cyprus type zone in Syria.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany