The Adana agreement between the then Turkish President, Saleyman Demirel, and the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad was re-discussed in foreign policy circles last week, 21 years after it was signed. Both Turkey and the Syrian regime`s regional ally, Russia, agree that the agreement remains relevant and should be implemented. Russia will encourage the Syrian government and Kurdish forces to conclude agreements and implement them after a Turkish operation in northeastern Syria that began last week, RIA Lavrov quoted. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected the idea that the agreement had been signed under pressure and said he had approved it because he had decided that the best thing for Syria was “to be friends with the Turkish people”, which he said was not reconciled with Syrian support for Kurdish groups.  The provisions of the agreement open a legal avenue for Turkey to act in Syria, with the full agreement of Russia. The Adana agreement, signed by Turkey and Syria on 20 October 1998, was the most critical topic on the agenda of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on 23 January. The two heads of state and government discussed the agreement at their joint press conference. Putin stressed that the 20-year-old agreement between Ankara and Damascus remained binding, while Erdogan stressed its importance and said Turkey would keep it on its agenda. It was the first meeting between the two heads of state since the announcement of the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. That is why their discussions were already important – and the issue of the Adana agreement became even more important. What is this 1998 agreement and why is it back on the agenda after seven years of conflict in Syria? The Adana agreement was signed at a time when relations between Turkey and Syria were tense and neighbours were on the brink of war.
Damascus had allowed Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK), who is now serving a life sentence on the Turkish island of Imrali, to protect and direct the terrorist organization`s activities for several years within its borders. When Turkey threatened to act militarily, Damascus deported Ocalan and closed PKK camps in the country. The Adana agreement should help restore bilateral relations. It was finally concluded after Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Harrazi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa intervened on behalf of their presidents. Some have described the agreement as a Turkish-Syrian version of the Camp David agreement signed by Egypt and Israel. Ankara accuses the Syrian regime of not respecting the agreement and says it must enter Syria to protect its borders from the PKK YPG member organization. The Adana agreement also provided for Turkey and Syria to enter into a reciprocal agreement in which they abstained from any military activity that would jeopardize the security of the other. Lavrov said the Turkish operation had allowed Islamic State fighters to escape.
He added that Moscow would support security cooperation between Turkish and Syrian forces along their border. Although the agreement is still in force on a technical level, Turkey, since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, has sought the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, thus severely grating diplomatic relations. On the same side as Turkey on the relevance of the Adana agreement, Russia asserts that the agreement aims to ensure the security of the Turkish border. Moscow says, however, it supports a dialogue between the Assad regime and the YPG. Syria`s decision to expel Ocalan and negotiate with Turkey was linked to its concern about the strength of the Turkish army in the face of its own weakness. However, a few years later, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview that “the deportation of Ocalan was not out of fear, but because we preferred you. We could either be friends with the Turkish people, or prefer the Kurds and lose you.