Erdoğan looking to cut deals with Putin, Trump on Syrian oil - VoA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set his sights on oil reserves in areas of Syria currently controlled by Kurdish-led groups and has proposed his idea to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Voice of America reported on Monday.

Erdoğan said Syrian oil revenues could be used to rebuild the war-torn country after its nine-year conflict ends, adding that he had spoken of the idea with Putin who said it was possible, VoA’s Sirwan Kajjo reported.

The Turkish president referred to energy reserves near Qamishli and Deir al-Zor, two areas in Syria that are under the control of the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its affiliates.

Erdoğan launched a military operation against the YPG last October, driving the group away from towns near its border and capturing a 30 km deep area between the cities of Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organisation for its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outlawed group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for decades.

In the aftermath of that military operation, the YPG and other Kurdish-led organisations that had run the northeast of Syria retreated to an enclave in the border city of Qamishli and to Deir al-Zor, an oil rich area of eastern Syria, where the Kurdish forces are backed by U.S. troops sent by President Donald Trump to “defend the oil”.

"Turkey definitely wants us removed from these areas, including Deir al-Zor," an official from the Syrian Democratic Forces, the umbrella group to which the YPG belongs, told VoA on condition of anonymity.

Turkey "will try anything to make sure that the SDF and the local population in eastern Syria don't benefit from their own natural resources," the Kurdish official said.   

Erdoğan said he would make the same proposal to Trump, but experts told the VoA that the move could be a way of pressurising the United States to cease its support for Kurdish forces and take Turkey’s side in Syria.

The Turkish president has cut several deals over the years with Russia in Syria, despite Moscow being a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Turkey’s rebel allies wish to overthrow.

In the latest deal, Turkey and Russia secured a ceasefire in Idlib, the last rebel-held province in Syria, which Assad’s forces have been pressing to capture.

"Erdoğan quickly turned to Putin, not only to cut a deal in Idlib, but also to offer him the oil fields currently controlled by the U.S.-backed [SDF]," Aykan Erdemir, a senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, told VoA. 

"This should be a wake-up call to Washington's realist policy circles who devise plans around a potential U.S.-Turkish partnership to contain Russian and Iranian hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East," he said.