Yuri Mavashev: "Russia and Turkey reached unprecedented level of relations"
Two days ago Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived to Ankara on a working visit to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on key issues of the Russian-Turkish agenda, including the Syrian crisis settlement and global bilateral economic projects. The head of the political research of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Yuri Mavashev discussed the results and significance of this visit for Russian-Turkish ties in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What topics were in the focus of these talks?
- Since this visit was originally planned to take place in November, but was held right now, I believe that the main topic of these talks was Syria and everything that is somehow associated with the Syrian crisis settlement, including situation in Idlib. We take into account that not so long ago sides reached an agreement and understanding on the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib. North of the province will be monitored by the Turkish armed forces and south by the military police, so that an armed group with 28 thousand militants, mainly supporters of Jabhat al-Nusra, would blocked and didn't pose a threat to Hama province, Syrian army and Russia's Special Operation Forces, located there. Incidents like the recent attack on Russian military police must be stopped at all cost. That's why presidents talked about Idlib.
Another important topic was the formation of fifth de-escalation zone in the Kurdish canton of Afrin. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim recently said that a substantive discussion with the Russian side on this matter is being held. In addition, one of the key topics of Russian-Turkish contacts in Syria is situation in Deir ez-Zor, where situation has deteriorated recently: Syrian democratic forces are on the offensive and, with the support of Americans, are trying to seize oil fields, while carrying out ethnic cleansings. Naturally, Ankara and Moscow don't like this, since it creates a blueprint for aggressive Kurdish independence under the control of Americans. Due to this it is necessary to note a very important role of the Russian aerospace forces, which supported Syrian army all this time. And although blocked of Deir ez-Zor has not ended yet, there's a clear progress.
It should be noted that Syrian topic is important, since Turkey and Russia have similar positions on many issues. During this visit Vladimir Putin said that both sides are committed to peaceful political settlement, and creation of de-escalation zones became a prologue to cessation of war, focusing on available conditions for ending this confrontation. Turkey agrees with Russia. For Ankara, this issue is associated with preventing creation of an independent Kurdish state - referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan happened recently and it is no accident that this question was raised during Putin's visit: Turkey needs to understand Russia's position.Judging by Putin's statements, Russia believes in the territorial integrity of states, in other words, we agree with Turkey, because we understand that someone wants to take advantage of this Kurdish-Iraqi issue and use it for personal benefit. Their goals are clear - fragmentation of Iraq and Syria. In my opinion, London is one of those behind this scheme. On September 5, its delegation visited Erbil without announcing any reasons. Let me remind you that British establishment didn't oppose this referendum, it only stated that it takes place at inappropriate time. Kirkuk is located not far from Iraqi Kurdistan and it's rich with oil. United Kingdom wants to take control of this area. Just like in the 20th century, when borders of Iraq and Syria were drawn with the participation of Great Britain, London seeks to create new states in order to implement its projects in the Middle East, which envisage destruction of secular and national states in the region.
Among other things, Putin and Erdogan discussed the issue of S-400 deliveries to Turkey. This issue has already been resolved, and Russia and Turkey won't stop their military-technical cooperation. Turkey needs this weapon in order to demonstrate its role in the region, Russia also needs to demonstrate its importance, including in the arms market, it needs to show that Russian weapons are in great demand even among NATO bloc members.
- What does Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey and personal meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara mean for the region geopolitically?
- Turkey is one of the leading countries in the region and claims to be one of regional leaders along with Israel and Iran. And not without a reason. Turkish potential is quite serious, including human potential: after all, it's a country with 80 million population and a growing economy. In addition, perhaps this visit symbolizes the fact that Russia is ready to respect Turkey's opinion, especially regarding Idlib province and what is happening in the north of Syria. After all, there were several meetings on the territory of Russia, and it's clear that there should be a certain principle of reciprocity. Erdogan also needs to demonstrate to his people that his not the one always travels to talk with Putin on Syria, that Moscow also respects Ankara, Putin visits Turkey and Erdogan receives Putin. In other words, the result of agreements reached at the meeting should be viewed not only from Russian-Turkish, but also from Turkish-Russian point of view, according to which Erdogan can use Putin's visit in domestic political arena. I think that's what Erdogan and his administration thought when he suggested holding this meeting in Ankara.
It is very positive for us that Russia and Turkey cooperate in the Syrian direction, since it can be a guarantee for bringing military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Ankara to a new level. For the first time in the history of Russian-Turkish relations our military-strategic cooperation is at such a high level. And it's not only because of S-400, but also because of meetings between the heads of General Staff. There were five of them over the past year. This has never happened previously. Now we have experience of agreements on Syria, experience of solving problems in Eurasia, and it's great, because this is a legacy that we can use in case of a recurrence of crises similar to Syrian one in the region. It's a very important experience that was achieved through coordinating positions of two states without a third party - without the US or someone else. We meet and talk with each other, we contact and resolve urgent problems that we have at the moment directly with Turkey.
- Do Moscow and Ankara agree on scenario of ending the war in Syria?
- If we use 10-point scale, then our understanding on Syria is 8 out of 10. Moreover, I would like to stress that positions between Russia and any other player that is somehow involved in Syria are not as similar. I'm saying this based on our communication with Turkish military experts and representatives of the ruling circles: Turkey appreciates the role of Russian military, they understand that Russia plays a key role in the antiterrorist operations, since activity of the international coalition and its results can't be compared with what Russia achieved. Several military officials say that Russian aerospace forces have saved the Middle East, not only by having a lot of victories in Syria, but also by helping Syrian army.
Change in Ankara's position on President Bashar Assad is also worth noting. Since 2011, Turkey has pursued "Assad must go" policy, and now Erdogan can't tell his voters that he believes that Assad, who he called a killer in the past, is a decent man - he will simply lose votes. But now Ankara is using Russia as a mediator in talks with Syrian government. Syria also began to make conciliatory statements. Recently Bashar Assad, without naming Turkey directly, said that it is necessary to forgive many regional players who may have made mistakes in the past. This is a clear answer to Erdogan, who is an intelligent politician and can draw certain conclusions from current situation and reach an understanding on the fate of Bashar Assad with Russian side.