Turkey, Russia Agree to Permanent Cease Fire in Northern Syria

Russia scored a major diplomatic coup in the Middle East by negotiating a permanent truce between Turkey and the Kurds in northern Syria. The deal preserves the buffer zone negotiated by U.S. President Donald Trump but gives control over most of that zone to Russia and Syrian border guards controlled by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Areas seized by Turkish troops since the start of the 9 October offensive will remain in place. Russian troops and Syrian border police will remove Kurdish fighters and weapons from the buffer zone. The Kurdish YPG element of the multi-ethnic Syrian Defense Force (“SDF”) was given 150 hours to withdraw. The deal is seen as a major setback for the Kurds, all but destroying their hopes for an independent state. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

President Trump announced the permanent cease fire between the two groups and stated that the U.S. was removing sanctions against Turkey. Trump implemented the sanctions after Turkey invaded Syria. “I do believe it will be permanent,” he said. “This was an outcome created by us, the United States, and nobody else…we’ve done something very, very special.” Trump credited the sanctions as the prime mover behind the deal. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Whether the truce lasts remains to be seen. Even before the truce was announced, the Kurds were accusing Turkey of violating a temporary cease fire negotiated by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Gen. Mazloum Abdi, commander of the SDF, told Fox News in a telephone interview that “ethnic cleansing” was continuing. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had also been pressuring the U.S., saying that Turkey would proceed with the invasion if SDF fighters had not withdrawn as promised. Up to 1,300 fighters had failed to vacate the safe zone prior to Erdogan’s statement. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Meanwhile, Russian troops expanded their presence across north-eastern Syria. Russian and Syrian media showed footage of Russian troops outside the important towns of Manbij and Kobani, and Russia’s Interfax agency reported Russian troops were already patrolling inside the city. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The SDF later accused Turkey and its proxies of breaking the permanent cease-fire by launching a heavy assault on three villages outside the area covered by the deal. An SDF official Tweeted that Kurdish-led forces would defend themselves. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Joint Turkish-Russian patrols were slated to begin Friday, November 1, 2019. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkey’s parliament that “We will start the joint work on the ground on Friday, namely we are starting the joint patrols.” Erdogan also told parliament that Russia had reported that 34,000 members of the “terror group”—a reference to the Kurdish-led SDF—had withdrawn from the ‘safe zone.’ Russia also reportedly said the Kurds had taken 3,260 pieces of heavy artillery with them. However, Erdogan tempered his comments, saying that “The data we have points to the fact that this wasn’t fully achieved” and that “We will give the necessary response after we carry out work in the field.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

As late as Thursday, Syrian Kurds were asking the Pentagon to block Turkish drones from U.S. controlled airspace over northeast Syria. Ilham Ahmed, who heads of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), said the Kurds would hold the U.S. responsible for Turkish war crimes if the U.S. did nothing to guarantee protection from the air. “We have been promised by the United States on a couple of occasions that areas that have US forces will never be attacked by Turkey,” Ahmed said through a translator “However, we saw that the US did not fulfill its promise after the Turkish incursion. Armed Turkish drones are still flying over our region and targeting anything they wish to.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more…