17 October 2019   Leave a comment

US Vice-President Pence was sent to Turkey to seek a cease-fire between Turkey and the Kurds in northeast Syria. Prior to his arrival, Turkish President Erdogan had emphatically rejected a cease-fire, saying “Declare a ceasefire, they say. We will never declare a ceasefire. We do not sit at the table with terrorist organizations.” We shall see what happens, but the photo below suggests that neither man was looking forward to the discussion. Additionally, note that, in violation of standard diplomatic protocol, Vice-President Pence in sitting in front of a Turkish, not an American, flag. Usually the format is that of the two smaller flags on the small table between the two men. Perhaps the Turks did not have a large US flag. Or perhaps President Erdogan wants deliberately to show disrespect.

Nonetheless, a cease-fire was agreed upon by the two powers. But it is a very strange cease-fire. The cease-fire requires the Kurds to leave the swathe of territory in northeast Syria. That outcome was the objective of the Turkish invasion. In other words, Pence agreed to allow Turkey to ethnically cleanse the region without firing its weapons. The agreement is essentially the second part of the abandonment of the Kurds. Moreover, Turkey will enforce the cease-fire. According to The Guardian:

” A statement released after the meeting reiterated the US understanding of Turkey’s need for a safe zone which will be ‘primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces’ after the Kurdish withdrawal, implying that Ankara still intends to occupy the 270m (440km) stretch of land, which includes several important Kurdish towns and parts of a major highway.”

What is still unclear is the status of the Syrian and Russian troops in the region. Will Syria consent to the Turkish occupation of its sovereign territory? And will the Kurds agree to leave the homes they have occupied for many, many years? And do the Turks think they agreed to a case-fire or just a pause in their operations? According to the Turkish media group, Anadolu Agency:

“The pause of Turkey’s anti-terror operation in Syria is not a cease-fire, cease-fire can only happen between the two legitimate sides, the Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday.

“‘Turkey will end the operation in northern Syria only after YPG/PKK terrorists leave [safe zone], Mevlut Cavusoglu [the Foreign Minister] told a news conference.

“‘We [Turkey and the U.S.] agreed on collecting heavy weapons of YPG, destructing their positions and fortifications,’ Cavusoglu added.”

Great Britain and the European Union have apparently reached an agreement on Brexit. The deal was made possible because of revisions to the relationship between Northern Ireland, the EU, and Great Britain. Jen Kirby, writing for Vox, explains:

“What’s changed in the withdrawal agreement is the format for the so-called “Irish backstop,” which has been the major sticking point in the Brexit deal for the better part of the past year.

“To recap, the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as it’s technically called, is a safeguard in the Brexit withdrawal agreement to guarantee that, no matter what happens with the future EU-UK relationship, the border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (which is an EU member-state) remains free of infrastructure and physical checks on goods.

“This commitment was seen as vital to the peace process in Northern Ireland. That’s because that border was heavily militarized during the Troubles, the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland between “nationalists,” who identified more closely with Ireland and sought a united Ireland, and “unionists,” who identified more closely with Britain and wanted to remain part of the UK.

“During that period, the border became both a symbol of the divide and a very real target for nationalist paramilitary groups such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

“A 1998 peace deal, known as the Good Friday Agreement, formally ended the conflict. That agreement included greater cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which meant softening the border between the two. Today, that border is all but invisible.”

The revised agreement is quite complex, but essentially keeps Northern Ireland in accord with the rules of the EU allowing goods to flow freely between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The difficulty is that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to get the agreement approved in the British Parliament. And part of the coalition in Johnson’s majority is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), an Irish party that controls 10 votes in Parliament. The DUP has announced that it does not support the new agreement:

“In a statement, the Democratic Unionist Party, which the government relies on for support in key votes, said: ‘These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.’

“The DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds criticised Mr Johnson, telling BBC News: ‘If he’d held his nerve – and held out – he would, of course, have got better concessions which kept the integrity, both economic and constitutional, of the UK.’

“He said he expected a ‘massive vote’ against Mr Johnson’s deal on Saturday in the House of Commons – and the DUP expected to ‘play a crucial role in amending the legislation.”

The soap opera continues.

Posted October 17, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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