Posted by: 4-02-2019, 14:07

Spiegel: Turkey is ready to recognize Assad - in exchange for an operation against the Kurds

Recep Erdogan and Bashar Asad got along well, but the civil war in Syria put an end to their friendship, Der Spiegel said. However, now the situation may change, because the Kurds who have gained strength in the north of Syria are losing the support of the US, withdrawing troops from the region: now their fate depends on the decisions of Moscow and Damascus. According to the publication, Erdogan can go to reconciliation with Assad in exchange for the approval of the military operation of the Turkish army against the Kurdish forces.

Spiegel: Turkey is ready to recognize Assad - in exchange for an operation against the Kurds

A photo: Reuters

They called each other «Tayip” and „Bashar”, made regular visits to each other, and in 2008 even spent a joint holiday in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum, writes Der Spiegel. Syrian leader Bashar Asad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were an example of male friendship, so rare in international politics.

The publication notes that this friendship was mutually beneficial: Syria and Turkey signed a free trade agreement, Syrian citizens got the right to visa-free entry into the territory of Turkey, and Turkish businessmen opened their enterprises in Syria. For Assad, Erdogan was the door to Europe: good relations with Ankara led to the fact that representatives of EU countries (for example, France) came to the Syrian leader. Erdogan could present himself as a mediator between Europe and the Arab world.

However, writes Der Spiegel, since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, almost nothing remained of the friendship between the two politicians. Erdogan called Assad a «terrorist” and a «murderer,” who, in turn, accused the Turkish president of supporting Syrian jihadists: the two countries were on the verge of military conflict. When the first protests began in Syria in 2011, Erdogan urged Assad to admit Muslim Brothers to the government, who are close to the Turkish president, but for the Syrian leader this would be a disaster. Assad firmly rejected the demands of Erdogan, who took this step as a personal insult: Turkish intelligence services began to arm the Syrian rebels, among whom were radical Islamists.

As the publication reminds, Erdogan continued to insist on the dismissal of Assad, even when Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, changing the balance of forces in favor of the Syrian leader. However, in recent months, the President of Turkey less and less criticized Assad, and less and less speaks about the need for regime change in Syria. According to Der Spiegel, the reason is not that Erdogan suddenly changed his mind, but that there was an increase in the third party of the conflict — the Kurdish Popular Self-Defense Detachments (YPG).

YPG gained recognition in the West, because together with the United States fought against the forces of the «Islamic state“ *. Currently, it controls a third of the territory of Syria (including areas where the Kurds are a minority). Erdogan views the YPG as a Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), recognized as terrorist in the US and the EU.

Thus, the publication concludes, the priorities of Erdogan in Syria have changed: he no longer concentrates on the displacement of Assad, but seeks to prevent the appearance of Kurdish autonomy in Syria under the authority of YPG.

A year ago, Turkish troops occupied the Syrian city of Afrin, which was under the control of the YPG. Further operations against Turkey against the Kurds stumbled upon opposition from the United States, who viewed the YPG as their partners in the fight against IG. However, after the announcement of Donald Trump about the imminent withdrawal of American troops from Syria, the future of the Kurds will be determined not by Washington, but by Moscow and Damascus, notes Der Spiegel.

The most important ally of Assad, Vladimir Putin, would be very happy if his protege returned control over the whole territory of Syria: as the newspaper notes, this development of events excludes the long-term rule of the YPG.

Trump's chaotic Syrian policy has led to the fact that Turkey and the YPG are now competing for who will make a deal with Putin and Asad more quickly, Der Spiegel writes. A few weeks ago, the Kurds had already asked the Syrian president for protection against Turkey and for maintaining at least partial autonomy.In addition, one of the high-ranking Kurdish military said that the Kurdish self-defense fighters could join the Syrian army.

At the same time, Vladimir Putin, during his January meeting with Erdogan, recalled the Adana agreement concluded between Syria and Turkey in 1998. Under this treaty, the Syrian government pledged to take action against Turkish forces hostile to Syria.

If the Adan Agreement is re-activated, Turkey will be able to deliver a limited military strike on the YPG. In exchange, the Turkish government will have to recognize Assad as the legitimate ruler of Syria. It seems that Erdogan is more and more ready to take such a step, Der Spiegel sums up.
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