Using the provisions of the Adana agreement, signed between Turkey and Syria on Oct. 20, 1998, Turkey has the ability to classify the violent crackdown on the opposition by the Bashar al-Assad government and the ensuing refugee crisis as a threat to the “security and stability of Turkey.”
Article 1 of the Adana agreement states that “Syria, on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, will not permit any activity that emanates from its territory aimed at jeopardizing the security and stability of Turkey.” The bloody crackdown on the opposition that has entered its second year has destabilized the country, with over 1 million Syrians internally displaced and nearly 25,000 Syrian refugees having fled to Turkey. The United Nations reports say that more than 9,000 civilians have been killed in the Syrian government's yearlong assault on protesters opposed to Assad.
As stability in Syria is long gone and the number of refugees crossing the border over to the Turkish side has climbed rapidly, this provision gives Turkey the right to take the necessary measures to contain the threat.
The Adana agreement also raises the issue of terrorism, especially the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) threat leveled against Turkey from Syrian soil. Article 1 continues, saying, “Syria will not allow the supply of weapons, logistical material and financial support to and the propaganda activities of the PKK on its territory.”
But, Syria -- which allowed Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK who is now imprisoned on the island of İmralı, to take shelter and direct the terrorist organization from within its borders for several years until 1998, the year when Syria had to deport Öcalan because of pressure from Turkey -- seems inclined to play the PKK card against Turkey since its neighbor to the north has taken a stern attitude and criticized Damascus when it chose to crush the demonstrations calling for reforms by firing at the protestors. According to the second article of the agreement, “Syria has recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization and banned all activities of the PKK and its affiliated organizations in its territories.” However, reports indicate that the Syrian regime started supplying arms to the PKK and its affiliate organizations in recent months.
The third article of the agreement states that Syria will not allow the PKK to establish camps and other facilities for training and shelter, or undertake commercial activities in its territories. The fourth article continues, “Syria will not allow PKK members to use Syria for transit to third countries.”
The last article of the agreement states, “Syria will take all necessary measures to prevent the head of the PKK terrorist organization from entering Syrian territory and will instruct its authorities at border points to that effect.”
According to intelligence estimates shared with Today’s Zaman, Syria has given the PKK free rein in the north, and Syrian security services have even assassinated moderate Kurdish politicians to pave the way for the PKK to reassert itself in Syria’s Kurdish regions.
Today’s Zaman has also obtained the transcript of the meeting during which the agreement was signed, which include a series of pledges made by the Syrian government of the time. According to these minutes, Syria promised that “Öcalan and the PKK elements abroad will definitely not be permitted to enter Syria, and the PKK camps will be prevented from becoming active.”
Relations between Turkey and Syria were thorny before 1998. The two countries were at the brink of war when Turkey threatened military action if Syria continued to shelter Öcalan in Damascus, his longtime safe haven. Besides Syria’s support for the PKK, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by NATO, the EU and many other countries, the other contentious issues between Syria and Turkey included Syria’s claims over Hatay and water disputes resulting from the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP).
The signing of the Adana agreement marked a turning point in the relations between the two countries. The agreement established cooperation against the PKK terrorist organization, and relations subsequently flourished in all aspects, including politics, economics, security and culture, until the recent developments in Syria.
The Adana agreement was concluded after Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Harrazi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa intervened on behalf of their presidents. The Turkish and Syrian delegations met in Adana on Oct. 19-20, 1998, under the auspices of these mediators to sign an agreement on cooperation against terrorism.