Putin and Erdoğan may disagree on Syrian sovereignty – Arab News

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on the withdrawal of all foreign military units from Syria following the conclusion of the fight against terror, raises questions about whether Ankara and Moscow see eye to eye on Syrian sovereignty, former Turkish Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış wrote in his column in the Arab News on Sunday.

All three guarantors of the Astana/Sochi process, Russia, Turkey and Iran, recognise the Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yakış wrote. However, Ankara has repeatedly said that it will launch a military operation in the northeast of Syria in addition to announcing plans for building houses in northeast Syria for the Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey and other countries.

Turkey and the United States have set up a joint operations centre in Turkey for a planned safe zone between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militia, which it maintains is the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over three decades. 

However, the NATO allies remain at odds over the size and command structure of the zone and Turkey has threatened put its own operation plan into effect if Turkish troops do not control a “safe zone” in northeast Syria within a few weeks.

While Putin has acknowledged that Turkey has a right to protect its borders from incursions by the Kurdish fighters of the YPG in last week’s trilateral summit in Ankara, the Russian president signalled his expectation on the eventual full withdrawal of Turkish forces in the region.

It remains unclear whether Erdoğan’s position is identical to that Putin, and if not, Yakış wrote, this difference of opinion is bound to come up on the agenda soon.