Turkey’s military incursion in Northeastern Syria

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Publication Date 2019
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Reports, analyses and information on a military operation undertaken by Turkey in the north-east region of Syria, following the withdrawal of troops from the United States (USA).

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The United States announced on 6 October 2019 that the troops stationed in Syria were to withdraw from the borders of Turkey, following a phone call between the leaders of the two countries. On 9 October, Turkey launched a military operation in northeastern Syria, starting with air strikes hitting the border town of Ras al Ain. The operation 'Peace Spring' was aimed at containing Syrian Kurdish power and creating an area within Syria to which a large number of Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey could subsequently be transferred.

The operation would attempt to bring years of expanding Kurdish presence and control across northern and eastern Syria, which had taken place in the context of the fight against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) alongside a coalition of forces led by the United states. The withdrawal of US troops from the region was consequently deemed by many analysts a betrayal to the Kurds, which had been widely seen as instrumental to the success of the operation to tackle the caliphate.

On 9 October, the European Union's High-Representative for Foreign Policy demanded Turkey to halt its unilateral military operation in Syria. Several European countries criticised the move and went on to freeze arms exports to Turkey. On 14 October, the Council of the European Union condemned Turkey's activities in Syria and supported the decision by some Member States to stop exporting weapons to the country. On the same day, the United States announced they were freezing commercial relations with Turkey due to the violence imposed upon northeastern Syria. Media sources reported that the Kurds had reached an agreement with the Syrian government to support the effort to repeal the Turkish incursion in the territory.

Turkey agreed on 17 October to a ceasefire for 120 hours in northern Syria, to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish-led forces (YPG), following a deal reached with the United States. Turkey also agreed to a permanent ceasefire upon completion of the YPG withdrawal. However, media sources reported that fighting was still ongoing on the following day at the border between Syria and Turkey. Another deal was agreed between Turkey and Russia on 22 October that aimed at ensuring the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from areas close to Syria's border and at conducting joint patrols in northern Syria. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Kurdish-led armed forces had withdrawn from the safe zone along the Syria–Turkey border on the 29. On 1 November, Turkish and Russian forces started joint patrol.

On 24 October, the plenary session of the European Parliament adopted a Resolution which condemns Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria and calls for measures against the country.

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Commentary and Analysis
Euro|topics, October 2019: US withdrawal: what will become of the Syrian Kurds? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/228198/
Reuters, 09/10/2019: 7 key things to know about the Turkish operation in Syria https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/7-key-things-to-know-about-the-turkish-o-idUSRTX76LXG
BBC News, 09/10/2019: Turkey's Syria offensive explained in four maps https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49973218
OSW: Commentary, 09/10/2019: Troublesome guests. Turkey’s plans regarding the Syrian refugee issue https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2019-10-09/troublesome-guests-turkeys-plans-regarding-syrian-refugee
BBC News, 09/10/2019: Turkey v Syria's Kurds: The short, medium and long story https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49963649
OSW: Analyses, 10/10/2019: Turkey invades the Kurdish para-state in Syria https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2019-10-10/turkey-invades-kurdish-para-state-syria
The Economist, 14/10/2019: Turkey’s invasion has thrown a once-stable corner of Syria into chaos https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2019/10/14/turkeys-invasion-has-thrown-a-once-stable-corner-of-syria-into-chaos
Politico, 14/10/2019: EU finds agreement on Turkey (but only just) https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-finds-agreement-on-turkey-but-only-just-bloc-foreign-ministers-incursion-north-syria/
Foreign Policy, 15/10/2019: The United States Still Needs a Syria Strategy https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/15/the-united-states-still-needs-a-syria-strategy/
Euro|topics, October 2019: Turkey's Syria offensive: is Europe powerless? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/228373/
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 15/10/2019: Trump Withdraws Troops From Syria: The Fallout https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/trump-withdraws-troops-syria-fallout
OSW: Analyses, 16/10/2019: Turkish intervention in Syria: a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the West https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2019-10-16/turkish-intervention-syria-a-new-crisis-relations-between-turkey-and
Politico, 17/10/2019: Turkey’s invasion of Syria explained https://www.politico.eu/article/8-questions-about-turkeys-incursion-into-syria-answered/
Euro|topics, October 2019: Is the war in Syria a good move for Erdoğan? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/228715/
Euractiv, 17/10/2019: Turkey’s incursion into Syria is making the EU and Kurds rethink their friends https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/opinion/turkeys-incursion-into-syria-is-making-the-eu-and-kurds-rethink-their-friends/
The Conversation, 22/10/2019: Turkey’s invasion of Syria a stark warning of how irrelevant NATO could become https://theconversation.com/turkeys-invasion-of-syria-a-stark-warning-of-how-irrelevant-nato-could-become-125451
Euro|topics, October 2019: Can the ceasefire in northern Syria achieve anything? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/228879/
OSW: Analyses, 24/10/2019: Russia’s triumph in Syria https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2019-10-24/russias-triumph-syria
Foreign Policy, 28/10/2019: Putin and Erdogan’s Deal for Syria Can’t Last https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/28/putin-erdogan-deal-syria-kurds-agreement-war-continues/
Wikipedia: 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Turkish_offensive_into_north-eastern_Syria#Russian%E2%80%93Turkish_memorandum

EUObserver, 07/10/2019: Turkey to enter Syria war after US gives green light https://euobserver.com/foreign/146184
Deutsche Welle, 07/10/2019: US begins troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria ahead of Turkish offensive https://p.dw.com/p/3QoVN
The Guardian, 09/10/2019: Turkey vows to press ahead with attack on Kurdish-led forces in Syria https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/08/turkey-to-press-ahead-with-attack-on-kurdish-led-forces-in-syria-trump
Politico, 09/10/2019: Turkey launches incursion into northern Syria https://www.politico.eu/article/turkey-incursion-into-northern-syria-kurdish-forces/
BBC News, 10/10/2019: US says it did not approve Turkey's Syria offensive https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49995494
EUObserver, 10/10/2019: Turkish attack on Syria might revive ISIS https://euobserver.com/news/146219
EurActiv, 10/10/2019: EU urges Turkey to halt Syria invasion, will not pay for ‘safe zone’ https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/eu-urges-turkey-to-halt-syria-invasion-will-not-pay-for-safe-zone/
BBC News, 11/10/2019: Turkey Syria offensive: Dozens killed as assault continues https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50011468
Politico, 13/10/2019: Germany, France to curb arms sales to Turkey over Syria operation https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-to-curb-arms-sales-to-turkey-over-syria-operation/
BBC News, 14/10/2019: Turkey-Syria offensive: Kurds reach deal with Syrian army https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50036901
Euronews, 14/10/2019: IS fighters escaping detention due to Turkish offensive, Kurds say, warning more will follow https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/13/is-fighters-escaping-detention-due-to-turkish-offensive-kurds-say-warning-more-will-follow
Politico, 14/10/2019: Syrian army moves to confront Turkish forces as U.S. withdraws https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/14/syrian-army-turkish-forces-046659
EurActiv, 14/10/2019: EU condemns Turkey’s military action, stops short of common arms embargo https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/eu-condemns-turkeys-military-action-stops-short-of-common-arms-embargo/
BBC News, 15/10/2019: Turkey-Syria offensive: UK government halts arms export licences to Turkey https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50056358
The Guardian, 15/10/2019: Donald Trump asks Turkey for ceasefire and orders sanctions as violence escalates https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/14/trump-asks-turkey-for-ceasefire-in-syria-as-violence-spirals-out-of-control
Reuters, 15/10/2019: Kremlin envoy calls Turkish military operation in Syria 'unacceptable' https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1WU1JN
EurActiv, 15/10/2019: VW puts on hold plan for 1 bln car factory in Turkey over Syria incursion https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/vw-puts-on-hold-plan-for-1-bln-car-factory-in-turkey-over-syria-incursion/
EurActiv, 15/10/2019: Russia-backed Syrian army sweeps in to fill US-left vacuum https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/russia-backed-syrian-army-sweeps-in-to-fill-us-left-vacuum/
Euronews, 18/10/2019: Turkey agrees to 120-hour ceasefire in northern Syria https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/17/turkey-has-agreed-to-120-hour-ceasefire-in-northern-syria-says-us-vice-president-mike-penc
BBC News, 18/10/2019: Turkey to suspend Syria offensive 'to allow Kurdish withdrawal' https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50091305
Reuters, 18/10/2019: Shelling heard around Syrian town after Turkish-U.S. ceasefire deal https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1WX0GT
The Guardian, 18/10/2019: Fighting continues on Syria-Turkey border despite ceasefire https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/18/fighting-continues-on-syria-turkey-border-despite-ceasefire
Reuters, 19/10/2019: Erdogan says Turkey to resume Syria offensive if truce deal falters https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN1WY09F
France24, 20/10/2019: Kurds begin evacuation from besieged Syrian border town https://www.france24.com/en/20191020-kurds-begin-evacuation-from-besieged-syrian-border-town
Politico, 22/10/2019: Turkey and Russia agree on Kurdish withdrawal, joint patrols in Syria https://www.politico.eu/article/turkey-russia-kurdish-ypg-syria-putin-erdogan/
EurActiv, 23/10/2019: Russia, Turkey reach ‘historic’ deal on Syria border https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/russia-turkey-reach-historic-deal-on-syria-border/
EurActiv, 25/10/2019: NATO slams Turkey over Syria, lukewarm reactions to German ‘safe zone’ proposal https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/nato-slams-turkey-over-syria-lukewarm-reactions-to-german-safe-zone-proposal/
Reuters, 29/10/2019: Turkey says Kurdish YPG still in Syria border area as deadline looms https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN1X80UD
The Washington Post, 29/10/2019: Russia says Kurds complete withdrawal from Turkish border https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russia-blast-near-armored-vehicles-in-ne-syria-no-injuries/2019/10/29/1ca75aea-fa5c-11e9-9e02-1d45cb3dfa8f_story.html
Reuters, 08/11/2019: Erdogan says Turkey will not leave Syria until other countries pull out https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-turkey-erdogan/erdogan-says-turkey-will-not-leave-syria-until-other-countries-pull-out-idUSKBN1XI1C0

United States: The White House: Statement from the Press Secretary, 6 October 2019 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-85/
UN: News, 08/10/2019: UN chief urges ‘maximum restraint’ following policy shift over northeastern Syria https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/10/1048812
Council of the European Union: Press release, 09/10/2019: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on recent developments in north-east Syria https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/10/09/declaration-by-the-high-representative-on-behalf-of-the-eu-on-recent-developments-in-north-east-syria/
France: Foreign Ministry: News, 10/10/2019: Jean-Yves Le Drian: Turkish offensive 'extremely serious and we totally condemn it' https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/our-ministers/jean-yves-le-drian/press/article/jean-yves-le-drian-turkish-offensive-extremely-serious-and-we-totally-condemn
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 14/10/2019: North East Syria: Council adopts conclusions https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/10/14/council-conclusions-on-north-east-syria/
United States: The White House: Statement from the Press Secretary: The United States and Turkey Agree to Ceasefire in Northeast Syria, 17 October 2019 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/united-states-turkey-agree-ceasefire-northeast-syria/
Russia's Presidency: Memorandum of Understanding Between Turkey and the Russian Federation, 22 October 2019 http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5452
European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Resolution on the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria and its consequences https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?lang=en&reference=2019/2886(RSP)
European Parliament: Press Release, 24/10/2019: MEPs call for sanctions against Turkey over military operation in Syria https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191017IPR64569/
NATO: News, 24/10/2019: NATO Defence Ministers discuss security challenges, including situation in northeast Syria https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_169953.htm

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