Jan 25 2019

Turkey’s Erdoğan says 1998 Syria deal justifies its military intervention

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said a 1998 agreement between Ankara and Damascus could be used to justify Turkey’s military interventions in Syria, Habertürk newspaper reported on Friday

Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the Adana agreement during a joint press conference with Erdoğan in Moscow on Wednesday. Putin said the agreement could cover any matters related to Turkey’s security concerns over Kurdish forces in Syria.

In the Adana agreement, the Syrian government pledged to prohibit on Syrian soil the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984. The agreement also allowed Turkey to use force against the PKK in Syria, should the Syrian government be incapable of fulfilling its promise. 

“It was an important step,” Erdoğan told reports on the plane returning from Moscow. “It may be possible to bring it forward now,” he said. 

According to Erdoğan, Putin mentioned the agreement intentionally. “I believe it is an important agreement that will let Turkey demonstrate its significance in the region,” Erdoğan said. He said the agreement should answer those questioning Turkey’s presence in Syria. 

“There is nobody who can say the agreement is no longer valid. Quite the contrary, Mr. Putin points out that this agreement can be crucial for our struggle against terrorism,” he said. 

Erdoğan said that Ankara was in close contact with Moscow and Tehran to resolve the situation in Syria, but ruled out any direct relations with Damascus. “We cannot have senior level contacts with someone who has caused the deaths of nearly one million people and forces millions to emigrate,” Erdoğan said. 

Turkey has so far made two large-scale interventions in Syria. Last year, Turkish and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels seized the control of the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK in Syria and says YPG-controlled zones east of the River Euphrates create a security threat to Turkey.