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Russia to retain its role in Syria despite US-Turkish agreement, says expert

According to the expert, the suspension of Turkey’s campaign was predictable, because Ankara was under pressure from all sides

MOSCOW, October 18. /TASS/. The US-Turkish agreement on suspending Ankara’s Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria reached at the talks between US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday will not enable Washington to seize the initiative in the Syrian settlement, Head of the Center for the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin told TASS.

"The United States has always sought to prevent Russia from seizing the initiative in the Syrian settlement, but, fortunately for us, it was unable to do so," he said. "Erdogan realized that he could do business with Russia relying on those obligations, which it undertook, in stark contrast to the US administration. That’s why I believe that this [agreement between the US and Turkey] will not affect Russia’s positions in the future peaceful settlement process."

According to the expert, the suspension of Turkey’s campaign was predictable, because Ankara was under pressure from all sides. He also recalled that Washington’s inconsistent stance, which had previously supported Kurds in northeastern Syria, had resulted in the start of hostilities.

"After realizing that they could lose such a key alley, primarily within NATO, the Americans did their utmost to mend deteriorating bilateral ties," Fitin stressed. "The fact that the US delegation was comprised of the key current politicians shows that they certainly didn’t come empty-handed."

Mixed reaction

The expert noted that it had been a tough choice for Erdogan who said more than once that he was determined to continue Turkey’s military campaign.

"The end of the campaign can have an adverse effect on Erdogan’s image in the nationalist part of Turkish society," Fitin pointed out. "Nevertheless, the key opposition members represented by the Republican People’s Party argued that it would be better to reach an agreement with the Syrian government. So, he will certainly stand to lose somewhere, and, perhaps, will find support somewhere else."

Negotiations in Ankara

On Thursday, Turkey and the US held talks in Ankara co-chaired by Erdogan and Pence. Turkey agreed to suspend its military campaign in northeastern Syria for 120 hours. Pence also noted that the parties had agreed on setting up a safe zone on the border with Syria.

US President Donald Trump described that decision as "great news," adding that "millions of lives will be saved" thanks to that.

On October 9, Ankara announced the launch of a new military campaign in Syria dubbed Operation Peace Spring, which began with airstrikes on the positions of Kurdish units. Its objective was to create a buffer zone in northern Syria where Syrian refugees could return from Turkey, according to the Erdogan regime. Syria’s SANA news agency branded the operation as an act of aggression, while the global community condemned Ankara’s actions.

US response

After the beginning of Ankara’s military incursion into Syria, the United States called on Turkey to end that military campaign. Last week, Trump signed an executive order authorizing tough unilateral sanctions against Turkey.

The day before the start of the operation, Trump said that he planned to have talks with Erdogan in Washington on November 13. He also threatened to "obliterate" Turkey’s economy, if it went "off limits" in Syria.

After an agreement on suspending Ankara’s operation was reached, Trump said he was ready to receive Erdogan in the White House in November.