Ankara may get long-term instruments of influence on Damascus

Yesterday, Vladimir Putin has congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan on victory in the referendum on amending the Turkish constitution. According to the Kremlin press service, during phone conversation they have exchanged views on the situation in Syria. They have stressed the need to strengthen ceasefire regime and to promote the inter-Syrian negotiation process in Astana and Geneva. They once again noted the importance of thorough and impartial international investigation into the incident of with possible use of chemical weapons in Idlib province. In addition, topical issues of further development of Russian-Turkish relations were discussed. Putin and Erdogan agreed to continue personal contacts.

As senior lecturer of the political science department of the Higher School of Economics, Grigory Lukyanov, believes, the Syrian situation showed that Turkey shouldn't rely on its military superiority in the foreseeable future: "Military operations in the territory of northern Syria showed that 2016 coup and subsequent changes in the Turkish army had a serious impact on its combat capabilities... Because of Russia's actions, because of the Syrian leadership's actions and because of the United States' actions, Turkey has a little space for maneuver in the Syrian direction. But it doesn't mean that Turkey won't be involved in the Syrian affairs in the coming years."

Before the war...

According to Lukyanov, Turkey will directly participate in the development of military-political situation in Syria and will be an integral participant in post-conflict settlement and reconstruction. "Russia understands the need to build relations with Turkey, including in this direction. It doesn't matter what differences we have, we have to cooperate if we want Syria to not split. I can't say that Turkey's position on what it wants to see in Syria is unambiguous. There are many ideas regarding the need to expand Turkey's territory at the expense of Syria's. Not all parts of society support this, not all political parties are in favor of this idea. Especially since ideas and desires should correspond to real possibilities," the expert believes.

He noted that it's in the interests of the Turkish leadership to obtain long-term instruments of influence on Damascus: "It can be done through participation in political settlement, participation of pro-Turkish political forces in the formation of new public authorities. Turkey is able to play a smart game precisely under the leadership of Erdogan, who demonstrated that he can appeal to many different political forces in Syria, from Syrian Turkomans and to separate groups of Arab political forces, with whom Turkey managed to build a fairly constructive relationship. I mean both systematic opposition, as well as about anti-government armed opposition, including Islamists. Erdogan's Islamist position helps him in this matter."

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