It seems Russia and Turkey are now seeing from the same viewpoint with regard to Syria if a press conference held in Moscow is anything to go by.
Both President Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed their willingness to work with each other.
Two key agenda discussed were Idlib and the east of the Euphrates, namely YPG -People’s Protection Unit, the Kurdish armed group- presence in the region.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose bulk of forces are comprised of YPG members, is viewed as a terrorist group by Ankara. SDF holds sway over the territory.
Turkey, concerned over the security of its southern borders, has since 2016 launched two cross-border military offensives.
Carving de facto buffer zones out of Syria, comprising of a 3,460-square-kilometre area from the Northern Aleppo district, these operations were not enough for Ankara to feel secure, as YPG members in the east of the Euphrates were armed and trained by the US army remained untouched.
With US troops bound to withdraw from the region as President Trump announced, Ankara once again looks at Russia for assistance in the region.
Erdogan said together with Russia, they don’t have any disagreements about a planned safe zone in northern Syria.
“Actions of terrorist groups must be liquidated”
Turkey has military observation posts in the Idlib region as it has a joint effort with Moscow for a de-escalation zone.
However, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, commonly referred to as Tahrir al-Sham and abbreviated HTS, an offshoot of Al- Qaeda fighting in Syria, took control of most of the Idlib in the first days of 2019.
This move excluded Turkey-backed FSA militants from the process and with radical militants controlling the roads once used by the Turkish military, security of the previously set observation posts comes into question.
“Moscow and Ankara have tried to create a de-escalation zone in the region. Nevertheless, the situation in the Idlib province is rapidly deteriorating and that it was almost under the full control of Nusra militants,” said Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately there are many problems there and we see them,” said Putin during the press conference, and asserted Turkey was doing a lot to remedy the situation, but more action by both Ankara and Moscow was necessary to “liquidate the actions of terrorist groups.”
The ‘Adana Protocol, signed 11 years ago, is still legitimate’
As two leaders were discussing the situation in Syria, the Adana protocol signed between Turkey and Syria in 1998 resurfaced as Putin referred to the agreement as a valid deal.
The 1998-dated bilateral anti-terror protocol between Turkey and Syria requires the Syrian government to exercise due measures against the emergence of any possible terrorist threat to Turkey within its borders. The protocol also gives Turkey the right to intervene if Syria fails to fulfill its share of the deal.
This protocol was not in motion due to the ongoing civil war started in 2011.
“The treaty between Syria and Turkey signed in 1998 is still valid. And it deals, in particular, with the fight against terrorism. I think this is the base that closes many issues in terms of ensuring Turkey’s security on its southern borders. Today we have been discussing this issue quite thoroughly, fully and actively,” said Putin.
“We think he referred to this [protocol] implying that Turkey can intervene in [Syria]. And this is positive for us,” said Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu, in an interview with pro-government, AHaber, yesterday.
According to Cavusoglu, Ankara and Moscow agree on every topic regarding a Syrian political solution aside from the issue of whether President Bashar al-Assad should stay in office.
However, this stance is bound to change according to some analysts. As Turkey seeks to eliminate YPG presence in the region, Putin’s referral to the agreement was seen by many as giving a green light to Turkey for military intervention, on condition that Ankara cooperates with Assad’s government.