Erdogan-Assad meeting: The file in Putin’s possession to overcome recent apathy in Turkish-Russian relations


By: Contribution for Syrializm


It was obvious that Turkish-Russian relations have witnessed lukewarm recently, after a series of developments that disturbed both sides from the other.

Turkiye’s recent positions regarding issues related to Ukraine and the issue of Sweden’s accession to NATO were among the issues that bothered Moscow from Ankara recently.

The last visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalensky to Turkiye, two months ago, during which statements issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which certainly didn’t reached well and heard nicely by the ears of Russian President Vladimir Putin, there at the Kremlin in Moscow.

Even what Ankara did by releasing and handing over a group of leaders and militants of the Ukrainian Azov battalion, whom Russia captured in Mariupol battles last year, and handed them over to Turkiye as a gesture of goodwill within an agreement that only they will be allowed to return to Ukraine when the war ends.

However, Erdogan didn’t abide, and handed them over to Zelensky despite Russia’s anger.

Then came the Russian reaction by withdrawing from the grain export agreement, which the Turkish president was the godfather of, apparently as a response from Moscow to inform Ankara of its dissatisfaction with the recent developments in relations between the two countries.

Recently, news came out to media stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit Turkiye this August, which the Turkish president announced that he hopes that this visit will take place, during which the recent differences between the two countries will be overcome.

On the other hand, it seems that the Syrian issue will be one of the tools to overcome the tension between Ankara and Moscow, so to speak.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin seems to be holding this file and intend to use it with his Turkish counterpart, especially with regard to the issue of Turkish-Syrian rapprochement, and preparation for a summit meeting between Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan under Russian auspices.

All the results of this meeting may have a positive impact on both countries, Syria, Turkiye and Russia alike.

Indeed, this approach is significant to reach for an end to the Syrian crisis, and to benefit from strengthening joint cooperation in order to confront the United States and its influence and end its military presence in Syria, which not only causes harm to Syria, but even cause a continuous damage to Turkish national security, in light of the United States continuing to support Kurdish terrorist groups and continuing ignoring Turkish security requirements in the northern Syrian region.

As a result, the policy of the Turkish government for several years has been heading towards more rapprochement with all of Russia and Iran, the two influential countries on the ground in Syria, in the hope of applying more pressure on Washington and the Syrian regime as well.

The fact is that Ankara has several crucial issues are strongly and urgently require to be dealt with, especially after the Turkish leadership secured its grip on power after the recent victory in the elections, and it has become necessary to deal with bunch of files that were at the forefront of the electoral promises of the Turkish leadership, which enabled it to bypass the Turkish opposition forces in the recent elections.

These files are:

  1. The Turkish demands of security in boarders with Syria.
  2. Deal with terrorism of PKK and related organizations.
  3. Reach a regional stability that positively affect the suffering Turkish economy.
  4. The issue of the Syrian refugees in Turkiye and the need to send them back to their homes peacefully and securely.
  5. Restore Turkish-Syrian relations for the benefit of both countries and the region as a whole.

These issues were the forefront that Turkish ruling AKP is require to deal with, and reach for final solutions.

Ankara in recent years reached the conclusion, that in order to find guaranteed solutions to these issues, is only possible by coordination with Russia and Iran and reaching one way or another a rapprochement with Assad government in Damascus, with Ankara’s tacit realization that the US position in general is more obstructive than it’s useful.

Turkish reports have re-talked about the process of building dialogue between Ankara and Damascus, and the possibility of meeting between Assad and Erdogan, while statements of officials of the two countries indicated that agreement is currently out of the question, especially with regard to the withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the Syrian lands, which is the top Syria condition to hold such meeting, and for Ankara to comply with that conditions isn’t possible.

Recently the Turkish government started to implement a very firm policy regarding what was described as “Irregular Immigration” as sending Syrian refugees back to Syria.

Turkish officials said that this policy expected to accelerate, starting next October, and here a possible meeting between the Syrian and Turkish leadership might play a decisive role for move forward with this policy.

Turkish Hurriyet newspaper, said that a large portion of the Syrian refugees in Turkiye are from Aleppo region, and thus, their safe return to Aleppo must be ensured.

Regarding the refugees returning plan, a possible idea for setting up security checkpoints to coordinate the return of Syrian refugees between Turkish and Syrian soldiers.

Hurriyet newspaper indicated that one million Syrian refugees have returned this year, and in order to move ahead with more Turkish Syria coordination, any upcoming Turkish-Syrian meeting must be on the level presidents, after the recent series of meetings that took place between intelligence, defense and foreign ministers.

According to the Russian plans, a meeting was scheduled, between Erdogan and Assad, last April or May, however that didn’t happen.

Moscow realizing the fact that Assad-Erdogan meeting, if it took place, would be critical threshold in the relations between the two countries, and can overcome most of the disputes.

However, Syrian president sets a condition for such meeting to take place, which is the Turkish withdrawal from the Syrian territories.

According to Ankara, this issue will be the last subject in the discussion, with the fact putting into consideration the current situation in the area the Turkish military presence on Syrian territory is a non-negotiable red line, as long as there are no guarantees for security on Turkish boarders.

Thus, Ankara rely on Moscow to use its influence on Damascus to bypass the this topic, as this topic will be at the forefront of the Turkish-Russian discussion, as Assad-Erdogan meeting will be on the top of the agenda during the visit that Russian President Vladimir Putin which he owns some files to confront his Turkish counterpart with.

Eventually, one of these sides must present the others with an offer that cannot be refused, at a stage where everyone needs such an offer.

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