- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Russia to discuss a potential peace plan for northeastern Syria with President Vladimir Putin.
- The discussions come amid Turkey’s military incursion into the region, which was effectively given the green light by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 1,000 US troops earlier this month.
- Turkey invaded northeastern Syria with the aim of ridding it of the People’s Protection Units — Kurdish forces whom Erdogan sees as terrorists, but with whom the US partnered to fight ISIS.
- The US and Turkey had negotiated a temporary cease-fire in the region, which essentially capitulates to Turkey. The cease-fire expires tonight and Turkey is keen to continue fighting.
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After President Donald Trump’s sudden and unexpected withdrawal of US troops from Syria, the US is now left watching Syria’s fate being decided by two other nations: Turkey and Russia.
The two countries’ presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, are meeting Tuesday in the southern Russian resort of Sochi to discuss Turkey’s military plans for northeastern Syria and a possible political settlement for the country, according to Russia’s state-run RT and Tass news agencies.
Turkish troops launched a military incursion into war-torn Syria earlier this month, a move that was effectively given the green light by Trump’s decision to remove 1,000 US troops from the region.
Turkey’s goal in northeastern Syria is to fight the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia alongside whom the US was fighting ISIS. Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and has vowed to destroy it.
The US withdrawal has effectively abandoned the Kurds, who have since partnered with troops fighting for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his backer, Russia, to fight off the Turks.
Russian troops have already entered the region and taken over US bases — with one American military officialtelling Business Insider: “Humiliation doesn’t begin to cover what the US forces are feeling right now.”
Putin and Erdogan — who now represent the two major foreign powers in northeastern Syria — are on Tuesday scheduled to work out a peace plan in the region.
—Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 22, 2019
They will discuss the “normalization of the situation in the country’s northeastern regions,” RT reported, citing the Kremlin.
They will also cover “countering international terrorist groups and promoting the political settlement process,” RT reported, without specifying who the exactly those terrorist groups are.
The two leaders are also scheduled to discuss the YPG withdrawal, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed Turkish security source.
Putin and Erdogan’s talks come hours before Turkey’s five-day cease-fire in Syria, which was negotiated by Vice President Mike Pence last week, expires at 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EDT).
Though Trump has hailed the cease-fire agreement as a victory, it actually capitulates to Turkey’s demands in exchange for virtually nothing for the US.
The cease-fire has seen Kurdish units withdraw from the Syria-Turkey border, which is allowing Turkey to consolidate its control in the region and rid the area of Kurds — exactly what Erdogan wanted in the first place.
Turkey is keen to continue fighting until all the Kurds leave Syria, with Erdogan telling reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters: “We are talking about 700-800 [YPG fighters] already withdrawn and the rest, around 1,200-1,300, are continuing to withdraw … All will have to get out, the process will not end before they are out.”
Some Turkish news channels are also displaying a clock counting down to the end of the cease-fire, BBC Monitoring reported.
—BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) October 22, 2019
Turkey has also been secretly negotiating with Syria, partly via Russia, to avoid direct clashes in the country, Reuters cited Turkish officials as saying.
However, Assad has kept up public anti-Turkey rhetoric, telling troops in the northwestern Idlib region on Tuesday: “Erdogan is a thief and is now stealing our land.”
The withdrawal of US troops, and effective collapse of the US-Kurdish coalition against ISIS, will likely aid the terror group’s resurgence.
Dozens of ISIS prisoners have escaped amid the US pull-out and Turkish invasion. US officials said they were losing ability to collect intelligence about the group’s operations in Syria, The New York Times reported.