Pekin went on to reveal that two days before Putin brought up the Adana accord, he spoke to a Russian source who suggested "Turkey enters from the north, the Syrian regime enters from the south; the area is swept and after order is restored, Turkey withdraws."

Pekin argued that this is what Moscow wants and the Adana agreement prepares the ground for it. However, he added that if Turkey wants this solution to work, it would have to give up its policy of ousting the Assad regime and supporting the Free Syrian Army, which is considered a terrorist structure by Damascus.

Aiming to keep everybody happy

Oytun Orhan, the co-ordinator of Syria studies at the Ankara-based Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM) think tank, is convinced that by reminding Ankara of the agreement, Putin is also trying to provide a counterbalance to the safe zone proposed by the U.S., the latter to come into effect following its withdrawal from Syria.

Turning the clock back:
The age of innocence: back in the days before the Syrian conflict – with the Adana conflict agreement effectively holding the PKK at bay – the Erdogans and Assads even holidayed together. Will Erdogan change his stance towards Assad, a man he claims is "the reason behind the deaths of more than one million people and the displacement of millions of others", for the sake of realpolitik?

"Both the U.S. and Russia want to keep Turkey on side, however neither of them want to lose the YPG either," he added. "Washington is telling Turkey: ʹI understand your security concerns so I am suggesting a safe zone which will be a buffer between you and the YPG.ʹ At the same time, it is also telling the YPG not to be along the Turkish border, offering the south of the security zone instead."

According to Orhan, Moscow has – in referencing the Adana agreement – made its own offer based on the security co-operation between Ankara and the Syrian regime. Orhan also pointed out, however, that when Putin brought up the Adana deal, he was also keen to emphasise that Moscow was trying to encourage the regime to establish dialogue with Kurds to ensure the unity of Syria. This could be a message to the YPG that Moscow is willing to accept preserving some of the Kurdish gains in Syria.

Journalist Gurkan Zengin, the author of several books on Turkish foreign policy, argues moreover that Ankara has good reason not to trust the U.S., with which it is still negotiating a final offer.

"Turkey also has reason not to trust the Syrian regime. As Erdogan has underlined several times, Turkey is not prepared to enter into high-level talks with Damascus. Ankara could, however, maintain low-level contact for the time being – at least until it becomes clear what exactly is being offered by both the U.S. and Moscow. Meanwhile, it seems likely Ankara will try to ensure that it at least maintains some room for manoeuvre," he told Qantara and added:

"That said, it would come as no surprise were Ankara to act unilaterally. As Erdogan frequently says ʹwe might show up one night out of the blueʹ."

Ayse Karabat

© 2019

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