What distinguishes the 1998 agreement from its three predecessors is not so much its broad terms as the environment in which it took place: weeks of verbal confrontation, including the Turkish accusation of “undeclared war”; Turkish military threats, supported by the installation of Turkish troops at the border, widely reported – though never confirmed -; and global attention to the deepening crisis, including the mediation missions of the Egyptian President and the Iranian Foreign Minister and Foreign Minister, the US behind-the-scenes efforts and President Assad`s trip to Egypt due to the crisis; the fact that Damascus pledged to behave itself seemed to be done to its essential friend, Egypt, as to Turkey; Syria`s decision at the beginning of the crisis not to try to comply with Turkey`s bellicose rhetoric or its military armament; and the unexpected suddenness of the Syria agreement to sign a document that seemed to meet most of Turkey`s demands. Under the Adana agreement, Turkey has the right to drive PKK fighters up to 5 km inside the border with Syria – but they cannot stay long. In 1998, Syria and Turkey signed a pact with which Damascus actively worked to allay Turkey`s concerns about the terrorist PKK. Close cooperation between Turkey and Israel has proven to be another problematic element in Turkey-Syria relations, particularly since it acquired military training in 1996 (and, as has generally been accepted, a strengthened joint intelligence service). In July 1998, Syria`s new Chief of Staff, Major General Ali Aslan, thundered that “the Turkish-Israeli Alliance controls the Arab nation, threatens its national security and puts pressure on Arabs in general and Syria in particular to accept expansionist Israeli plans.” The Adana agreement between the then Turkish President, Saleyman Demirel, and the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad was re-discussed in foreign policy circles last week, 21 years after it was signed. Almost all of these statements and commitments — including branding the PKK as a “terrorist” and banning its activities — had been made on other occasions. Certainly, the main elements of the 1998 protocol are contained in the agreements signed in 1987, 1992 and 1993. At the time of the 1993 agreement, Turkey`s chief negotiator even claimed that Damascus had accepted Ocalan`s extradition if he was captured in Syria. The Syrian official who signed the 1998 protocols also signed the 1993 protocol.
After each of the previous agreements, Syrian support for the PKK seemed to be eddling for some time, but it then returned to form. Both Turkey and the Syrian regime`s regional ally, Russia, agree that the agreement remains relevant and should be implemented. Ankara accuses the Syrian regime of not respecting the agreement and says it must enter Syria to protect its borders from the PKK YPG member organization. 1. Daniel Pipes, Syria Beyond the Peace Process (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1996), 61. Sibel Utku, Mustafa Erdogan and Alparslan Esmer, “Monitoring Syria,” Turkish Probe, 25 October 1998, p. 11-12. The evidence of these two sentences is impressive. Over the past decade, Turkey has acquired the building blocks of a modern armed force. The inventory includes approximately 200 F-16 fighter jets (co-produced with Lockheed) and nearly 1,000 M-60 tanks (transferred by Washington, when the United States lowered its inventory to the limits of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces Convention in Europe).
Turkish forces have gained combat experience in the fight against the PKK, both in their own country and in northern Iraq. Moreover, the Turkish economy continued to grow — in the 1990s, with an annual average of 5%, with a GDP that has more than tripled since 1980 — and Ankara places some of that growing wealth in the purchase of weapons.