Stability in Syria should be priority


Moscow and Ankara on Tuesday reached a deal to “facilitate the removal” of Kurdish People’s Protection Units and their weapons from within 30 kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border. The accord, struck by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after six hours of talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, allows Turkey to establish a long sought after “safe zone” inside Syria — about 120 km long and 32 km deep. It gives Ankara a crucial presence inside the country. Which is why Erdogan has hailed the agreement as “historic”.
Russia, whose forces will begin joint patrols with Turkish forces along the Turkish-controlled zone, has also scored significant geopolitical gains by moving in to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, further cementing its role as the sole key foreign player in the regional conflict. Putin described the decision as “very important, if not momentous, to resolve what is a pretty tense situation”.
Even the United States, which on President Donald Trump’s order abruptly withdrew its forces from northern Syria early this month basically clearing the way for Turkey’s massive military offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, believes its military has achieved its objective.
US Vice-President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the US may well have given the international community an opportunity to establish a safe zone between Turkey and the Kurdish population in Syria, adding such a zone would ensure peace for everyone in the war-torn region.
Ironically, the voice of the Kurdish people in northern Syria whose fate is to be directly shaped by the deal has not been heard. They were the key US allies in fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria over the past five years, at the cost of thousands of their fighters’ lives. Now dubbed by Ankara as terrorists because of their presumed links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey, they have 150 hours starting at noon Wednesday to leave almost the entire northeastern border.
China hopes that the deal will now mean Turkey will stop its military offensive, which has displaced some 300,000 people and killed 120 civilians, according to reports, as the focus should be on continuing the fight against terrorism and promoting a political settlement of the Syrian issue.