The five-day pause in Turkish offensive: Did Turkey achieve goals

October 22, 2019

The military attack, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Erdogan had launched on northern Syria on Oct. 9, was temporarily halted for five days due to an agreement brokered between Turkey and the United States. Now, we should wait and see if this situation will last.

The agreement was made after 300-minute negotiations between Turkish and U.S. officials. The ceasefire started at 10 p.m. local time and will continue for five days.

The 120-hour (five-day) halt in military operations in northern Syria was made during negotiations between Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence who visited Ankara on Thursday.

Joint U.S.-Turkish Statement on northeast Syria is as follow:

1. The U.S. and Turkey reaffirm their relationship as fellow members of NATO. The U.S. understands Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border.

2. Turkey and the U.S. agree that the conditions on the ground, northeast Syria in particular, necessitate closer coordination on the basis of common interests.

3. Turkey and the U.S. remain committed to protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats with the solid understanding of “one for all and all for one”.

4. The two countries reiterate their pledge to uphold human life, human rights, and the protection of religious and ethnic communities.

5. Turkey and the U.S. are committed to D-ISIS/DAESH activities in northeast Syria. This will include coordination on detention facilities and internally displaced persons from formerly ISIS/DAESH-controlled areas, as appropriate.

6. Turkey and the U.S. agree that counter-terrorism operations must target only terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles, and equipment.

7. The Turkish side expressed its commitment to ensure safety and well-being of residents of all population centers in the safe zone controlled by the Turkish Forces (safe zone) and reiterated that maximum care will be exercised in order not to cause harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.

8. Both countries reiterate their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and UN-led political process, which aims at ending the Syrian conflict in accordance with UNSCR 2254.

9. The two sides agreed on the continued importance and functionality of a safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey, to include the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions.

10. The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.

11. The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal.

12. Once Operation Peace Spring is paused, the U.S. agrees not to pursue further imposition of sanctions under the Executive Order of October 14, 2019, Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria, and will work and consult with Congress, as appropriate, to underline the progress being undertaken to achieve peace and security in Syria, in accordance with UNSCR 2254. Once Operation Peace Spring is halted as per paragraph 11 the current sanctions under the aforementioned Executive Order shall be lifted.

13. Both parties are committed to work together to implement all the goals outlined in this Statement.

Trump’s enthusiasm for temporary agreement and Erdogan’s response

Donald Trump thanked Erdogan in his first reaction, calling the deal a lifesaver for civilians.

In his tweets, in response to the temporary ceasefire deal, Trump stated the deal would save the lives of thousands of civilians. In response to Trump’s remarks, Erdogan said that if we beat the biggest humanity’s enemy, the terrorism, more lives will be saved.

According to Erdogan, this joint effort will reinforce peace and stability in the region.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara got “exactly what we wanted” under the Erdogan’s presidency on the battlefield. He added, “Turkey and the U.S. agreed on collecting the heavy weapons of the YPG, destroying their positions and fortifications”.

cavusoglu claimed that the recent agreement with the U.S. does not mean a ceasefire in northern Syria.

According to Cavusoglu, not only the withdrawal of the YPG, but also the disarmament of this group has been agreed with the United States, and Turkey has intended to establish a safe zone with the depth of 32 kilometers into Syria. 

 The Russians’ reaction

Russia responded to Turkey-U.S. agreement in northern Syria on Friday morning, October 18.

“We expect to receive information from Turkey,” said the Kremlin about the agreement.

What was Guterres reaction?

The UN Secretary-General Guterres welcomed Turkish pause in the Syria assault, saying in a statement that he welcomed “any efforts” to de-escalate the situation in northern Syria and protect civilians.

The statement said the secretary-general recognizes that there is still a long way to go for an effective solution to the crisis in Syria.

Damascus describes the agreement as “vague”

The Syrian president's political adviser Bouthaina Shaaban reacted to Turkey’s pause in military attack in northern Syria, saying the Turkey-U.S. deal is “vague”. In the current situation, she said, the term “safe zone” is not correct, and instead the term “occupied zone” should be used. Shaaban added the whole world opposed the Turkish military attack in northern Syria. 

She called Erdogan a dangerous and aggressive man who should be confronted with. According to the advisor, Erdogan promotes the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology in the region and Europe. 

“In our point of view, Erdogan is an aggressor who has invaded our territory… and without Turkey’s help, so many terrorist would not have come to Syria,” Shaaban told Al Mayadeen.

She also said Syria’s relations with Iranian and Russian allies will continue and there will be complete trust between the sides. 

Regarding the possibility of the Kurdish breakaway, she said we “cannot accept” another Iraqi Kurdistan in Syria. The advisor said most of the Kurdish brothers are members of the Syrian nation and described them as a great people who protect their homeland. 

 The Kurds gravely welcome the truce

In response to the pause in the assault, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi (Kobani) stated that he would accept the agreement. He said the agreement is just the beginning because Turkey would not achieve its goals. 

Kobani said the group would accept the ceasefire agreement with Turkey in northern Syria but said it was limited to the border areas running between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. He added that the fate of the rest of areas has not been determined yet. The U.S. is responsible for keeping the population in the region unchanged and it should return residents to their homes.

A Kurdish commander, Aldar Khalil, told AFP that SDF welcomes the deal, but the Kurds will defend themselves if they are attacked. The commander said Erdogan intended to enter 32 kilometers deep inside Syria, an attempt that “we have already rejected”. 

However, the deal is temporary and fragile, and one should wait and see how long it will last. Regardless of what Turkish officials, especially the foreign minister, have said about the realization of the operation’s goals, ambition and military attacks will not solve the problem. The best way of establishing security is to reach an agreement with Syria.

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