Ahead of the Elections… Erdogan’s conquest to resurrect Zero problems policies with Neighbors
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, completed his reconciliations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, in the winter of 2022.
However, the surprise was, after waiting for a few months, that the Arab financial aid didn’t affect the direction of stopping the decline in his popularity, just as Washington didn’t lead any initiative to ease the economic pressure exerted on Ankara.
Also at this time, the Syrian refugees issue was putting more pressure on the authority, which its opponents accused of favoring the option of keeping the refugees at the expense of the Turkish citizen’s livelihood, for the sake of electoral calculations, and continuing to blackmail Europe with these, in exchange for money.
However, it was believed that the economy might recover somewhat if the path of normalization with Syria was facilitated, so that Erdogan would come out of the image of an obstacle to the return of refugees.
Accordingly, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, came out on August 6, 2022, to talk about his country’s desire for reconciliation, which was followed by a statement by the Turkish President in the same direction.
The Syrian Government met the new Turkish position with great caution, and with silence that lasted for days.
After that, Damascus confirmed that they didn’t have any accounts or personal considerations in dealing with Ankara, and that if the interest of the two countries required it, according to the Syrian President Bashar al Assad, there is no objection even to a meeting between him and Erdogan.
However, a little over five months passed without any signs of seriousness on the Turkish side.
On the one hand, the latter did not present any concrete, detailed, and clear proposal regarding his plans for reconciliation with his Syrian counterpart; On the other hand, a thorny and complex issue like that wasn’t raised until shortly before the Turkish presidential elections that were scheduled to take place on June 18, 2023, so how can it proceed, even gradually, in this short period?
From this point, doubts arose that Türkiye was proposing the idea of reconciliation, in the first place, in order to use any meeting between Assad and Erdogan on its way, to enhance the latter’s chances in the presidential elections only, based on a bet – perhaps it had – that Syria, which is under siege and economic hardship, it will be ready to respond to the Turkish desire, even at its lowest level, especially in light of the presence of Russian pressure on it.
In any case, and despite all the observations on the Turkish positions, Damascus was responsive to the idea of reconciliation, and it didn’t mind giving itself an opportunity to probe Ankara’s intentions, and to find out whether they were serious or not.
However, after the meeting of the defense ministers of Syria, Türkiye and Russia in Moscow, on December 28, which all parties described as positive, it appeared that there was a stumbling block in this path, which was translated into the failure to hold another meeting, not at the level of ministers.
Defense or at the level of foreign ministers, and then canceling a meeting that was to be held in the Russian capital, on March 15 and 16, at the level of deputy foreign ministers of the four countries, despite the questions raised by talk about that meeting, among them about what is related to how coordination is transmitted from ministers Defense, to the deputy foreign ministers, and not, for example, to the foreign ministers.
As for the certain news, it came from the Syrian president himself, who said, on the sidelines of his visit to Moscow a few days ago, that any meeting with Erdogan is meaningless if it’s not linked to the condition of a comprehensive Turkish withdrawal from Syria and the eliminating terrorist groups, according to Damascus classifications.
The advanced position informed Damascus’ belief that the Turkish president wanted to image the meeting with Assad, as a strong electoral ballot paper in his favor, and that there was no reason to trust Ankara even in the presence of Russian and Iranian guarantees, because no one guarantees Erdogan for several days, according to the Syrian president comments made in Moscow.
It seemed that the effectiveness of Russian pressure on Türkiye to concede in the Syrian issue stands at the priority of Moscow’s need for Ankara in the ongoing conflict on Ukrainian territory against the West.
Thus, only a month and a half left until the Turkish presidential elections, while it has become clear that reconciliation with Syria will be postponed until later, and therefore linked to its results.
If Erdogan remains in power – and he may remain – then he will consider that a victory over the entire world hostile to him, and in the Syrian case, it’s possible that he will toughen his position on the terms of peace, even if it has become decided that the latter won’t take place without the withdrawal of the Turkish army and the striking of terrorist groups.
The signing of a balanced security agreement or the amendment of the Turkish-Syrian Adana Agreement signed in 1998, which in its current form doesn’t provide such a balance, given that the threat has been, over the past 12 years, from within Türkiye towards Syria and not the other way around), while without fulfilling these conditions, it will continue the crisis, along with the refugee dilemma, and the possibility of a military explosion, with its implications for Türkiye.