Moscow and Ankara need to reach compromise on Syria

Moscow and Ankara need to reach compromise on Syria

The presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seem to still meet in early March and discuss the situation in Syria. In Idlib province, the parties were on the verge of a direct collision several times. Otherwise, according to military experts, this could not have happened: when large military forces appear on a small "patch" to pursue different goals, and even with the involvement of smaller, but quite militant forces, the conflict between them becomes a matter of time.

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, while Moscow and Ankara demonstrate their persistence in supporting the various parties involved in the conflict, the number of refugees has reached almost a million. According to other sources, it even exceeded this catastrophic mark, and children in camps are threatened with death from hypothermia - tents, not all of which are equipped with at least some heaters, are not the most reliable refuge. And this is against the backdrop of ongoing clashes between Russian-backed troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and armed opposition groups, which are patronized by Turkey.

Idlib is the northern province of Syria, bordering Turkey. This is the only region in Syria that remains under the control of anti-Assad rebels. A strategic route passes through Idlib, which gives Syria access to the outside world, which, among other things, also explains the stubbornness of government forces in trying to establish control here. However, without Russia's help, Assad's army, exhausted by prolonged military operations and not very adapted to them, would have long been drowned in its own attacking actions.

Actually, the same can be said about opposition groups - without the help of Turkey, according to various sources, having deployed about 15 thousand troops and equipment to the region, the resistance to the Syrian government forces would have long been broken.

With this in mind, a natural question arises - how "legitimate" is the assistance that Russia and Turkey provide to the participants in the conflict? As for Russia, its actions in Syria can be characterized by the usual term - “assistance to a friendly state,” plus everything else that is behind this wording. Russia intensified in Syria after 2014. Then, after the imposition of Western sanctions because of the Crimea, Moscow was in a difficult position. Perhaps the calculation was that the situation in Syria could somehow be exchanged, i.e. for the settlement of the conflict in Syria, to receive, if not a complete abolition, then a relaxation of sanctions. This script did not work. Anyway, bye. And today, Russian aviation, based at the Khmeimim airbase, has become almost the main striking force in the struggle of government forces with opposition groups.

Turkey, on the other hand, is the leader of the Turkic world, considers itself responsible for the Turkic-speaking faithful inhabitants of Idlib. This is one thing. The second is perhaps the most important. Erdogan needs absolute control over the Syrian-Turkish border in order to avoid the interaction of Kurdish troops on the territory of Syria and in Turkey itself - this is a matter of vital strategic security. Third, according to the Turkish authorities, tens of thousands of refugees crossed the border from Syria to Turkey, which has already become a serious problem, and as many or more can cross over. The UN called the situation "close to the greatest humanitarian disaster of the twenty-first century," but did not recommend anything in terms of how to deal with so many people deprived of shelter and livelihoods.

Erdogan, by the way, addressed this question to European leaders, who intensified criticism of Ankara for actively interfering in the Syrian processes, but did not receive a clear answer. Maybe he will receive during the meeting in early March - according to unconfirmed official data, in addition to the Russian leader, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel may arrive in the Turkish capital. But Erdogan is hardly worth counting on too effective assistance from Berlin and Paris. In this situation, the United States remains in net gain: President Donald Trump the other day in Vegas said that he considered the American companies a wonderful prospect for Syrian oil production and regretted that such an opportunity was missed in Iraq, where Chinese companies were quicker. A frank and, of course, cynical statement, but Washington’s approach should not be surprised, it didn’t appear yesterday.

At this stage, attempts by Ankara and Moscow to come to an agreement were more like an imitation of dialogue. But the situation has become threatening. Ankara announced its readiness to conduct a military operation in Idlib, and, perhaps, Erdogan will seek from Putin "move a little to the side." Moscow called this scenario the worst of the existing ones, which gives the right to assume that Putin will refuse to Erdogan in such a request, if it sounds. But they need to somehow agree, because the prospect of a collision looks real, and the grave consequences of this are unpredictable.