MOSCOW, November 19. /TASS/. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s statements on Ankara’s readiness to resume a military operation in northeast Syria are brazen blackmail related to the refugee issue, Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Konstantin Truyevtsev told TASS on Tuesday.
"The attempt to simultaneously blackmail both Russia and the United States is not the best policy Turkey can pursue," he said. "This is brazen blackmail."
According to him, the blackmail attempts come after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to implement his plans regarding refugees. "Ankara did not reach some of its goals. For instance, Erdogan wanted to occupy a certain zone along the northern Syrian border and resettle Syrian refugees there. This plan failed," the expert underlined, recalling that some 3.5 million Syrian refugees remain in Turkey.
Truyevtsev pointed out that Ankara is becoming more and more concerned about Syrians leaving refugee camps for large cities which leads to growing tensions in society. "This is enormous economic and social burden. Therefore, Erdogan and those around him are looking for ways to address this issue," he added.
The Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper reported that on November 18 Cavusoglu announced that Ankara is ready to resume its Peace Spring military operation in Syria if the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) do not withdraw its fighters away from the Turkish-Syrian border. He also accused the US and Russia of failing to take necessary steps in accordance with agreements reached separately with Ankara.
The expert stressed that Russia had given sufficient guarantees on Syria and had done everything necessary. "If any incidents do take place, Russia assumed the responsibility to deal with them. The rest is pointless and unfair haggle," he underlined.
According to Truyevtsev, Turkey can attempt to carry out an attack on Syria but it is not in Ankara’s interests. "Apart from Russia, there is the Syrian army. Some Kurdish units are units of the Syrian army, therefore, such an attack will be regarded as an attack on Syrian territory and Syrian army. This will be troubling developments if it happens," the expert said.
On October 9, Ankara launched a new military operation in northern Syria dubbed Peace Spring, which began with airstrikes on positions of Kurdish units. The objective is to create a buffer zone in northern Syria where Syrians refugees could return, Ankara claims. The buffer zone will also establish a security belt for the Turkish border. The Syrian SANA news agency branded the operation as aggression, while the international community condemned Ankara’s actions.
On October 13, SANA reported that Damascus had struck a deal with Kurds and sent troops to north Syria to oppose the Turkish army. In the next few days, the Syrian army took control over a number of cities and towns in Kurdish regions without any fighting, including Al-Tabqah, Manbij, Raqqa and Kobane. On October 17, Syrian army units reached the Turkish border.
On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum on joint actions in northeastern Syria. According to the document, as of noon October 23, Russian military police and Syrian border guards started to monitor the withdrawal of Kurdish military formations to the depth of 30 km from the border. On the outcomes of the agreement, Ankara stated that it had suspended its large-scale military operation in the area. However, Turkey retains control over the territories where it plans to relocate Syrian refugees in the future.
The deadline for the Kurdish forces to withdraw expired on October 29, 18:00 local time. Turkey and Russia began joint patrolling in northeastern Syria on November 1.