Turkey’s decision for the first time in history to accept an independent Kurdish state on its Syrian doorstep was sealed on June 30 during a rare visit to Ankara by Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Republic of Iraq (KRG).
Practical steps were approved in meetings the Iraqi visitor held with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
DEBKA Weekly's sources have obtained exclusive access to those historic steps:
1. Turkey will recognize the first ever independent Kurdish state in northern Syria. Its inhabitants number roughly three million, representing nine percent of the country’s total population.
2. The self-ruling entity will be organized on the same lines as the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. The capital of the new entity will probably be the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli, next door to the Turkish city of Nusaybin near the Iraq border.
3. Turkey will guarantee the new mini-state a military and air umbrella. If necessary, Turkish troops will cross over to repel any threat from Bashar Assad’s army or any other armed force, such as hostile Syrian rebel militias, Al Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra) or Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
The Turkish-Kurdish pact virtually reverses Ankara’s backing for the Syrian opposition and its military wing and turns it around in support of the Kurdish people.
Turkey will help build a Syrian Kurdish “peshmerga”
This turnaround has sparked a spate of bloody battles of late around the Syrian frontier town of Ras al-Ain and the nearby border crossing point into Turkey.
Ras al-Ain has a majority Kurdish population and is strategically important due to its proximity to the Turkish border. The Kurds have taken up arms to prevent the Syrian army and rebels alike from seizing control of the town.
Kurdish fighters are also engaged in bitter fighting with Al Qaeda for control of the northern Syrian oil and gas fields in Ramilan. Possession of those fields would endow both the Syrian and Iraqi autonomous republics with enough energy resources to support their economies. They would develop those resources in partnership and export the oil and gas to the Mediterranean and Europe through the Turkish pipeline the use of which Ankara has promised.
4. Turkey also undertakes to establish, train and arm Syrian Kurdish militias and build an independent army on the model of the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga.
Up until two weeks ago, this epic Turkish-Kurdish pact would have been regarded as a wild pipedream by seasoned Middle East hands. Past Turkish governments paled at the very notion of a Kurdish military presence anywhere near the country’s borders.
Entire Kurdish nation committed to pact with Turkey
For decades, Ankara bent every military and intelligence asset to pushing the violent separatist PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) far from its borders lest it gains a foothold in or around Turkey.
Today, the PKK fighters are actually pulling back from Turkish borders.
5. The Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister, representing the senior Kurdish self-ruling entity, the KRG of Iraq, pledged the entire nation’s full adherence to the historic Kurdish pact with Turkey:
He promised additionally that –
a) PKK fighters would continue to retreat from Turkey into Iraq. They would not enlist with the new Syrian Kurdish army, operate in Turkey or contest the Turkish-Kurdish agreement.
b) All the Syrian Kurdish parties and militias allied hitherto with the PKK, like the Democratic Union Party-PYD, will strictly honor the terms of the Turkish-Kurdish pact. Before traveling to Ankara, the Iraqi Kurdish prime minister arranged for Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party-PYD to travel to Ankara and personally present his movement’s commitment to the pact.
c) Prime Minister Barzani furthermore swore that the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan, nascent Syrian Kurdistan and the Kurdish minority of Turkey would not make common cause for the creation of a continuous independent nation spanning the three countries.
Syrian Kurds mobilize to defend their enclave
A KRG spokesman stated Thursday August: “No one in the Middle East, especially Turkey, need fear that [an inclusive] independent Kurdish state will be proclaimed when the Kurdish National Congress convenes shortly in Arbil. We understand there may be some concerns in some countries, including Turkey, about the subject matter of this congress. We'd like to tell them that they should not be concerned."
The Syrian Kurds don’t expect to achieve their state without running into resistance. DEBKA Weekly's military sources report that on Thursday the Syrian Kurdish leadership announced a general call-up of all Syrian Kurdish men aged 17-45.