Meanwhile, the Syrian government said it no longer felt bound by the agreement, but remained “willing” to return to the agreement if Turkey were to stop supporting the Free Syrian Army and other Turkish-backed armed rebel groups in Syria and withdraw its troops from Turkish-occupied northern Syrian territories.   The agreement is based on the fact that Damascus recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization and prohibits all activities of the group and its affiliated organizations on its territory. 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. Turkey has already embarked on this path. In the 1980s and 1990s, Iran supported the PKK to undermine Turkey`s secular democratic political system – the regional antithesis to the authoritarian style of religious governance of the Islamic Republic. In the PKK too, Syria saw the usefulness. For Hafez al-Assad, the PKK has been a convenient tool to settle old bills on the disputed Hatay area – and more directly — to force Turkey to disagree on the sharing of euphrates and Tigris water. The provisions of the agreement open a legal avenue for Turkey to act in Syria, with the full agreement of Russia. The two countries found themselves on the brink of war when Turkey threatened to carry out military action if Syria continued to protect Abdullah Ocalan in Damascus, his long-time refuge. Relations have improved since October 1998, when Ocalan was expelled from Damascus and Syria pledged to no longer house PKK fighters and the signing of the Adana agreement in 1999, after its capture in Kenya, provided for security cooperation between the two countries.  The Adana Agreement, signed by Turkey and Syria on 20 October 1998, was the most critical topic on the agenda of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on 23 January. The two heads of state and government discussed the agreement at their joint press conference. Putin stressed that the 20-year-old agreement between Ankara and Damascus remained binding, while Erdogan stressed its importance and said Turkey would keep it on its agenda.
It was the first meeting between the two heads of state since the announcement of the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. That is why their discussions were already important – and the issue of the Adana agreement became even more important. What is this 1998 agreement and why is it back on the agenda after seven years of conflict in Syria? The Adana agreement was signed at a time when relations between Turkey and Syria were tense and neighbours were on the brink of war. Damascus had allowed Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK), who is now serving a life sentence on the Turkish island of Imrali, to protect and direct the terrorist organization`s activities for several years within its borders. When Turkey threatened to act militarily, Damascus deported Ocalan and closed PKK camps in the country. The Adana agreement should help restore bilateral relations. It was finally concluded after Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Harrazi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa intervened on behalf of their presidents. Some have described the agreement as a Turkish-Syrian version of the Camp David agreement signed by Egypt and Israel. The agreement confirmed a new model of friendly relations with Syria — and Iran surged in 2003 and concluded that Turkey`s agreement should be part of its broader regional strategy. This change was a response to the American invasion of Iraq, which led Tehran to decide that it should reach its neighbor, Turkey, to counter the threat of the United States encircling Iran.