Has Turkey reached an agreement with the US about the safe zone in Syria? - MEHMET ACET

Has Turkey reached an agreement with the US about the safe zone in Syria?

This time the markets did not pay any regard to U.S. President Donald Trump. I am talking about the tweet the U.S. president posted on Sunday at midnight, openly threatening Turkey by saying, "If Kurds are hit, we will devastate Turkey economically."

Monday morning, about six hours after that threatening tweet was posted, half an hour before the markets opened, I tested the waters through a top-level official who is involved in the negotiations with the U.S. I asked questions like, "How will it be now? Won't the economy card challenge Turkey?"

My contact confidently said, "They are trying to apply psychological pressure; there won't be any sanctions, et cetera."

When we looked at the movement of the dollar in the markets that opened half an hour later, we saw no serious reaction other than minor movements. In other words, Trump's head-on dive did not lead to panic. This was a sign that my contact official's theory that "the aim is to establish psychological pressure," found a response.

With the exception of Trump's statement threatening Turkey, there was a second element that could remain on the agenda for weeks, or even for weeks after this. The idea of a "safe zone" planned to be formed 20 miles, in other words, 32 kilometers deep.

Why did Ankara reject the suggestion in the past?

Those who have been closely following the developments regarding the east of the Euphrates River know that the safe zone, in other words the buffer zone discussions are nothing new.

For example, the same topic was mentioned in a conversation with a retired force commander, who was closely involved in the Syria case while on duty.

The Americans made such a suggestion to Turkey in 2016 but Ankara had immediately rejected this proposal.

When asked why it was rejected, the retired force commander had responded, "Americans wanted a buffer zone under their own control, they did not want to involve Turkey. So it was immediately rejected."

Is the U.S.'s current suggestion different from the previous one? In other words, if it is activated, is the safe zone that is 32 kilometers deep going to be built open to Turkey's initiative? Or for another purpose?

Pay attention to the president's words

Up until yesterday, there was a common opinion that Americans' mind worked on a different frequency with respect to this topic. According to that mentality, such a project stood as an idea brought up on the agenda to "Prevent Turks from harming Kurds [read this as the People's Protection Units (YPG)]." As a matter of fact, it was also no secret that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had taken certain steps in relation to transferring that area, which is likely to be formed, to a "Common Arab Force."

There is a reason past tense is used in these last sentences and that is: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's speech at the Parliamentary group yesterday, and the expressions he used when answering journalists' questions later, point to a new situation.

Erdoğan had held a phone call with Trump on Monday evening. Erdoğan's statement about how this topic was tackled during the phone call helped us form an idea. Let us take a look at those critical words:

"The safe zone we will be forming in Syria throughout the Turkey border, was stated by Trump himself as 20 miles. And this is a more than 30- kilometer deep safe zone."

The most important emphasis in the president's words finds response in the statement, "the safe zone being built by Turkey."

It is possible to infer that a certain agreement has been reached with Trump from this statement.

If this really is the case and if Trump doesn’t change his mind three days later, or if his team does not attempt any new indoctrinations that will confuse him, Erdoğan's statement, "I believe we have reached a historically significant understanding with Trump," will present great value.

Ankara's condition for the safe zone idea

Reading Erdoğan's statements regarding the safe zone backwards paves the way to a significant evaluation worth emphasizing. Such that, with this statement, the president has explained under which circumstances the safe zone project suggested by Trump can be accepted by Turkey.

To put it more clearly, he is giving the message that "We are leaning toward this idea, but only if Turkey undertakes this task."

If this project is really implemented in a way that can be accepted by Ankara, it can be easily synchronized with the "Turkey plan" the president announced in his article published in The New York Times. However, if the intention is to take the YPG out of Turkey's target area, to bring in other "buffer forces" for this purpose, it will not be easy.


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