Manbij and Tell Rifaat: Turkey’s Dual Diplomacy Joins the Two Opponents

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the American President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the American President Donald Trump (Getty Images)


Turkey has managed to set up a “road map” with Russia and the United States of America concerning Tell Rifaat, controlled by Assad’s forces, and the city of Manbij, under the (Kurdish) “People’s Protection Units”.

A “dual diplomatic plan” was followed by Turkey concerning the two competitive opponents in Syria, America and Russia, to start a new partnership with Washington, titled “freezing the tension” to reach an understanding and develop the relations joining them, following a stalemated period of interaction between the two states due to a number of thorny issues, on top of which is funding that “US” is offering to the “People’s Protection Units,” which Turkey classifies as a “terrorist” group.

In case of Russia, Assad’s strong ally, the Tell Rifaat deal reinforced the understanding and the political agreements between Ankara and Moscow and aimed to boost the relationship between them and to arrive at a certain convergence relating to the Syrian file.


Manbij and Tell Rifaat

Following repeated threats of launching a military operation against the “Units” in Manbij incase America did not approve their diplomatic departure from the area, Washington and Ankara have, late in May, agreed to establish security and stability in Manbij according to the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The two states have agreed upon a work plan with specific steps, starting with the withdrawal of the “Units’” leaders on July 4, according to what Çavuşoğlu has said in an interview with “CNNTURK” on Thursday, June 21. This step is to be followed with assigning American and Turkish forces and intelligence agents to conduct supervision of the city, prior to the formation of military and local councils to provide the city with security and services.

Last week, Turkey has already started activating new patrols in the area, for a number of Turkish armored vehicles have entered the area and positioned at the outskirts of Sajur River which separates Manbij from Jarabulus. In sync, the American forces have also put patrols into action opposite the al-Dadat area.

A few days following the Manbij deal, Turkey announced conducting a diplomatic agreement with the Russian ally concerning the city of Tell Rifaat, in a manner similar to Manbij deal.

The deal provides for the departure of Assad’s forces and ally militias from the city, on the condition that a joint Turkish-Russian presence takes their place, in addition to the admittance of the Tell Rifaat families to the city, but not the military factions.

Weapons are also not allowed in the city while a local council of a local police, from the city’s young people, is to be formed according to details that Enab Baladi managed to get concerning the deal’s terms.


Turkey’s Balanced Attitude in Dealing with Russia and America

The correspondence of the two deals is viewed by military analysts as a competition on the part of Russia and Washington to pull Ankara to their side, being a strategic partner in the area, especially Russia which tried to exploit the tension between Ankara and Washington and has formerly procrastinated in relation to Tell Rifaat’s file to keep it as a pressure card in the face of Turkey prior to accepting the current deal that followed the Turkish-American agreement in Manbij.

However, the Turkish writer and political analyst Firas Radwan oğlu refused to link Tell Rifaat’s deal with that of Manbij, since Turkey was from the very beginning negotiating with Russia concerning the city’s file and that it is one of the many deals conducted between the two states, according to what he has told Enab Baladi.

Oğlu has stressed that each of the interacting parties is trying to attract Turkey for being a crucial player in Syria, in addition to the pressure cards that Turkey has, which give it the power to disrupt America and Russia’s plans, such as the opposition’s support and the formation of military forces of the “Free Army,” but Ankara does not want elongated disputes with the two sides, particularly that it is unable to compete with the Russians and Americans.

About the two deals, Oğlu pointed out that Turkey is trying to divide the power between Russia and America and to have a balanced political role with both states and that they are competitors in Syria.

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