October 23, 2019
Putin brokers deal to push Kurds away from border
The agreement between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin cements two things: it pushes Kurdish forces out of the 440km-long Syrian border area with Turkey and it installs Russia as the de facto power broker in the region. According to the agreement Kurdish forces will have a 150-hour window to retreat from a 30km-deep corridor along the Turkish border, starting at midnight tonight until October 29. Russian military police and Syrian border guards are to oversee the Kurdish retreat, while Turkish forces stay in place without further advances. After October 29, Russia and Turkey will patrol a 10km strip along the whole 440km border with the exception of Qamishli, the de facto Kurdish capital. This buffer zone appears to include the two strategically-important towns of Kobani and Manbij.
What are the quid-pro-quo's? Turkey got its safe zone and control over it. In return Turkey is to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, an important concession Putin brokered for his ally Bashar al-Assad. What this means for the Idlib province, where Turkey maintains observation posts, is not clear yet. It is also not clear to us what it means for Erdogan's plans to resettle Syrian refugees. And nowhere in the declaration is anything said about the Isis prison camps.
There are no comments yet from the Kurds. Earlier during the day the army commander in Kobani confirmed that fighters retreated from the border strip between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn just hours before the US-brokered ceasefire ended. Amid the Turkish operation and the US retreat, the Kurds were forced to seek the protection of the hated dictator Assad, who gets his grip on land that used to be under Kurdish authority. The Kurds are screwed over again, it seems.