Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s statement about Russia’s failure to fulfill its promises and his threats to resume Ankara’s military operation in northern Syria were surprising, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Tuesday.
“The Russian Defense Ministry was surprised to hear Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s statement about Russia’s alleged failure to fulfill its promises, as well as his threats about an operation in northern Syria,” he said. “The Turkish top diplomat’s statement calling for military activities may raise tensions in Syria’s north instead of easing them in accordance with a joint memorandum signed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey,” Konashenkov added.
According to Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper, Cavusoglu said on Monday that Ankara was ready to resume Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria in case the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) failed to pull their fighters back from the Turkish-Syrian border. The Turkish foreign minister also accused Washington and Moscow of failing to take the necessary steps within the agreements they had reached with Ankara.
On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. The Turkish government claimed that its goal was to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Ankara’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Damascus slammed the operation as aggression, and the international community condemned Ankara’s move.
On October 17, the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, reached a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pause Operation Peace Spring. Turkey consented to a 120-hour ceasefire so that Kurdish units making up the coalition of the Syrian Democratic Forces could leave the areas of the border security zone that Ankara is attempting to create.
On October 22, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey signed a memorandum on joint actions to resolve the situation in northeastern Syria. Russian military police units and Syrian troops were deployed to areas adjacent to the zone of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring. Kurdish units were given 150 hours to pull out of the 30-km zone along the Syria-Turkey border.
The withdrawal was completed by October 29 and on November 1, Russian military police and Turkish troops launched joint patrols in areas east of the Euphrates River.