Is it sensible to ask Assad to honor his commitments?
The Adana Agreement is important, and Turkey should process it.
This has become one of the most noteworthy topics of the summit between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has brought the suggestion to the table. He most likely had shared this idea with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad before the meeting. Putin had bluntly said the articles of the Adana Agreement will be a relief for many Turkish concerns over the southern border.
Tensions were running high in the process leading up to Turkey and Syria’s signing of the said agreement in 1998, when Turkey was preparing to enter Syrian territory. The agreement, which I will later elaborate on in detail, includes Syria’s commitments to Turkey. When Putin says “Turkey should process this agreement,” Syria needs to put its pledges from 1998 to its agenda again and fulfill them. For this, Putin should tell Assad: “Fulfill the commitments of the agreement.” It appears that Assad had already known that Putin was going to come up with such a suggestion. I will evoke the agreement first and then tackle how it can be processed.
On Sept. 17, 1998, at the Reyhanlı Border Post near Syria, General Atilla Ateş — then chief of the army — said: “They have spread terrorism to Turkey by supporting the bandit named Apo. PKK-supporting Syria has been trying our patience. Turkey will earn all rights to take precautions if it does not receive what it expects.”
It was the most remarkable speech of the process. After the army chief’s statements, Turkey had shown its reaction and its “we will shoot if you do not take a step” approach on almost every level. “This is serious. Turkey has suffered gravely,” then President Süleyman Demirel had said. Egypt then intervened, and on Oct. 17, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had to leave Syria. On Oct. 19-20, Turkish and Syrian authorities met in the southern province of Adana. Deputy Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Uğur Ziyal, on behalf of the Turkish delegation, and Chief of Political Security Major General Adnan Badr Al Hassan, on behalf of the Syrian delegation, had signed the Adana Agreement.
The Syrian commitments to Turkey in the agreement were:
- Öcalan is not in Syria from now on. He will surely not be allowed to enter Syria. PKK elements will not be allowed to enter Syria as well.
- PKK camps are no longer active and will not be allowed to be operational. Many PKK members have been arrested and transferred to justice.
- Syria will not allow any activity rooting from Syrian lands that will harm Turkey’s security and stability, within the framework of the reciprocity principle. The PKK’s supply of arms, logistics material and financial support will not be allowed on Syrian lands and PKK propaganda will be banned.
- Syria recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. The activities of the PKK and all its subsidiaries are prohibited in the country.
- Syria will not allow the PKK to form camps and other organizations for training and shelter and will prohibit any of its commercial activities. Syria will not allow members of the PKK to use the country in their transition to a third country.
In a sense, this agreement was dictated to Hafez al-Assad’s regime, which made its support for terrorism a state policy. The Syrian government had undertaken a serious obligation in accordance with Turkey’s requests and mechanisms had been set up for monitoring. Moreover, in all meetings, Turkey had clearly given the message: “We are not responsible for what is going to happen in case there is a diversion.”
Ankara plans to bring this agreement to the agenda again. Bashar al-Assad needs to implement this agreement signed during the tenure of his father and fulfill the commitments. The article in the agreement which declares that “Syria banned all activities of the PKK and its subsidiaries” must have drawn your attention. It will be underlined that the subsidiaries include all different names, especially the YPG/PYD.
So how will the process work? At the beginning, as I’ve brought to your attention, obviously Putin had discussed the issue with the Assad regime beforehand. Turkey and Syria are in contact via Russia and Iran. Also, intelligence agencies have contact on a low level. This contact had been raised around the same table, especially in the Idlib Memorandum. When Russians continued their insistence to meet with the Syrian regime to solve the issues in the field, the Syrian intelligence and Turkish intelligence had met. The low-level contacts may come up again with a special assignment during this period. The Adana Agreement is the commitment of one country to another. The agreement is indefinite. In order for it to process again, the dialogue door should open, even at the lower level.