How will Ankara react to oil deal with Syrian Kurds?

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) runs for cover during shelling on the Islamic State group's last holdout of Baghouz, in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on March 3, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2020

How will Ankara react to oil deal with Syrian Kurds?

  • The SDF needs to continue to build ties with the United States, and this oil deal strengthens the ties between the SDF and the US

ANKARA: A surprise deal between American Delta Crescent Energy LLC oil company and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the development of oil fields in northeastern Syria has sparked concerns about the reaction from Ankara.

One of the key disagreements between Turkey and the US on Syria has been about the latter’s local cooperation with the SDF.

But Ankara has reportedly kept silent about this deal and not reacted negatively, according to the Al-Monitor news portal, despite the SDF being considered a terror group and a political extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by Ankara.

The deal was reportedly made “with the acknowledgement and encouragement of the White House” with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham having engaged in talks with SDF leader Mazlum Kobani for the development of oil fields in the region by the American company.

Syria’s oil supply is concentrated on the northeastern part of the country, especially in Qamishli and Deir ez Zor, which are controlled by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration.

The Kurdish-led SDF began withdrawing from Turkish-Syrian border zones last October in accordance with a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey. They were then redeployed to new positions about 30 km from the border in northeast Syria.

On July 10, Kobani met the top commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie, in northeast Syria to discuss regional issues.

Joe Macaron, a Middle East foreign policy analyst at the Washington-based Arab Center, said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not jeopardize his good relationship with US President Donald Trump — in arenas from Syria to Libya — for an inevitable US oil contract in SDF-controlled areas in Syria when he knows how important oil is for Trump.

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Syria’s oil supply is concentrated on the northeastern part of the country, especially in Qamishli and Deir ez Zor, which are controlled by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration.

“Ankara has made clear strategic gains in Syria and Libya thanks to US support and has managed to push Kurdish forces away from its border while altering the dynamics in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean,” he told Arab News.

However, Macaron thinks that Erdogan can always bring up the issue at a later stage if the Trump administration shifts policy in Syria or if Trump loses the election. Not reacting now does not mean that Ankara will not make an issue of it in the future.

“This is an official deal between the company and the SDF. The Americans have a plan for this area but we don’t know any detail about the contract. It is the reason why Ankara did not react strongly as the deal is not clear,” Navvar Saban, a military analyst from the Istanbul-based Omran Center for Strategic Studies, told Arab News.

According to Saban, the vision of the US about the region and on the oil issue had changed in favor of long-term investments.

Nicholas A. Heras, Middle East security program manager at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, thinks the deal is more important to the SDF than it is to the Americans, which is probably why Ankara has not reacted strongly.

“The SDF needs to continue to build ties with the United States, and this oil deal strengthens the ties between the SDF and the US,” he told Arab News.

According to Heras, Ankara seems to be calculating that because Syrian oil reserves are not large, and this deal is relatively small, if the Turks wanted to pursue further military action in northeast Syria this deal would not cause Washington to stop them.

Ruwan Al-Rejoleh, an independent analyst in Washington, DC, relates this deal with attempts by the US to facilitate intra Kurdish talks and Kurdish-Turkish indirect talks on the Syrian front to reach a settlement for groups in northeast Syria before the US withdrawal.

“President Erdogan offered Russia and US a proposal to use the oil revenues in Syria for reconstruction purposes that can be overseen through an international body but not in any way accepting or allowing the oil revenues to strengthen the local authority of SDF in northeastern Syria,” she told Arab News.

Noting that James Jeffery, special US representative for Syria engagement, had reportedly informed Turkey about the oil deal and that Ankara had not reacted negatively, Al-Rejoleh thinks that there is a certain level of understanding between Washington and Ankara about the deal.

“The devil is in the detail; it is important to look at the fields that are included in the deal as well as Russia’s position. Russia didn’t express a position yet, however. Moscow is keen on the balancing act in a way to ensure that Syrians who live outside the SDF-led area will get their share from the oil revenue,” she said.

But, according to Al-Rejoleh, this deal doesn’t seem designed to empower the local governance authority of the SDF but rather to create an international understanding and platform, where a political deal can be reached through a shared economic platform of the oil revenues among local and international actors.

 


Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

A Lebanese protester hangs a gallow in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 35 min 50 sec ago

Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

  • MPs resign in protest as political fallout intensifies
  • As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying

BEIRUT: Thousands of protesters set up a mock gallows in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on Saturday and demanded “revenge” against politicians widely held responsible for the deadly explosion that devastated large swathes of the Lebanese capital.

At least 60 people are still missing after the massive blast in Beirut port, which killed more than 150 people, injured 5,000 others and left thousands homeless.

As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying.

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at thousands of people who gathered in the capital calling for the downfall of the country’s political elite, chanting:
“The people want the regime to fall.”

More than 100 protesters were injured in the clashes.

After demonstrators set up the mock gallows, effigies of political leaders, including former prime minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, were displayed in some of the most explicit signs of public anger seen in years.

Police shot live ammunition in the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who responded by hurling rocks and charging security cordons.

One of the protesters, who gave her name only as Lina, said: “We came from Hasbaya in solidarity with Beirut. We came to stand together in grief and offer condolence for the loss of sons and daughters.

“We came to tell all the leaders to leave so that we can rebuild what you have destroyed, what happened is because of your negligence and greed,” she said.

Meanwhile, the three-member Kataeb party parliamentary bloc resigned on Saturday in protest at the blast, bringing to five the number of MPs to quit since the disaster.

In an emotional speech during a funeral service for a top party official who died in Tuesday’s blast, party leader Samy Gemayel announced his resignation and that of the two other MPs.

Independent MP Paula Yacoubian also resigned, while MP Michel Daher announced his withdrawal from the Strong Lebanon bloc led by the Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil.

As international aid flows into shell-shocked Beirut, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay and European Council President Charles Michel arrived in the city to deliver relief aid and offer support.

After meeting President Michel Aoun and inspecting damage at the Foreign Ministry, near the port, Gheit said he would ask the Economic and Social Council to meet in the next two weeks to "examine the situation in Lebanon and how to help.”

He described the situation as “a disaster,” and said that “we must recognize that the Lebanese situation is difficult and complex.”

The Netherlands Foreign Ministry announced that the wife of Dutch envoy to Lebanon Jan Waltmans died of wounds sustained in the blast.

The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon said that 43 Syrians were among those killed in the explosion.

Military teams working at the blast site carried out tests for chemical, radioactive or biological agents on Saturday, Col. Roger Khoury told Arab News during a media tour.

Rescue teams are working round the clock looking for cell phone signals in the search for those missing after the blast.

However, the teams say they are being hampered by debris from the explosion, including concrete rubble from grain silos destroyed in the blast.

Military divers searching the port and nearby ocean for victims of the blast found a body hurled 500 meters by the force of the blast.

By early Saturday, a total of 61 relief planes had landed at Beirut airport carrying medical and relief supplies as well as food, Ministry of Defense Operations Room Commander Brig. Gen. Jean Nohra told Arab News.

He said that medical supplies are being distributed in coordination with the Ministry of Health.

Supplies are being stored at the headquarters of the Central Military Medical Authority in Beirut before being distributed, he said.