It seems a poignant moment to reflect upon whether or not recent developments in Russian-Turkish relations are ushering in a new dawn in Syria. There is no doubt that since the failed Turkish coup attempt that Russia and Turkey have not only sought to normalise relations but have also given clear indication that they both share common ground with regards to the Middle East, despite some obvious differences in policy decisions.
At a recent meeting between Putin and Erdogan the overridding message that came out was that Europe should no longer consider itself to be the centre of the universe and that Turkey has other strategic options on the table other than the US. It is clear that the failed coup brought these two nations together primarily because of their common resentment of Western interventionist policy no more so than when it was in Erdogan’s very own backyard.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the day before Putin and Erdogan’s meeting that Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Azerbaijan in Baku and furthermore that Iran’s Foreign Minister has offered to organize a trilateral meeting between Iran, Russia and Turkey to discuss the settlement of the Syrian crisis.
In further developments, Turkey has called for a partnership with Russia to once and for all deal with the Islamic State threat not only in Syria but in that entire region. Ankara’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a recent interview that “we will discuss all the details. We have always called on Russia to carry out anti-Daesh operations together.” Cavusoglu added: “Let us fight against the terrorist group together, so that we can clear it out as soon as possible.” This is a clear shift in policy given the evidence that implicated Turkey in assisting ISIS both in terms of allowing their personnel over the Turkish-Syrian border and also, more controversially, in terms of trading with ISIS with respect to oil and weapons.
Turkey is also considering the possibility of closing its border with Syria. Moscow urged Ankara to close the Syrian-Turkish border in order to stop the flow of errorists and weapons and pledged to provide Turkey with satellite images of those areas where it is shown that weapons and militants are being trafficked across the border.
German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier propose to organize an “air bridge” to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor. “In the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor because of the situation on the ground people must be provided with humanitarian aid by air bridges. If both parts of Aleppo are not enough provided with humanitarian aid, we must probe the possibility of delivering] aid, especially medical goods, by air,” Steinmeier told reporters.
An encouraging development has seen the possibility that Moscow has been discussing details of how the US and Russia can cooperate on the humanitarian initiative in Syria, including using Castello road on a regular basis. In the meeting in Baku, Iran also offered to cooperate and assist Russia’s humanitarian operation in Syria’s Aleppo. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpur said, “Of course, we need to create conditions for normal life in Aleppo. All the residents of Aleppo and Syria are tired of this situation. We are ready to assist the Russian side in creating normal living conditions in Aleppo and Syria. We are ready to cooperate with the Russian side.”
The US-led coalition against the Islamic State carried out 14 airstrikes agains the terror group’s positions in Syria and Iraq during the last 24 hours, the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said in a press release today. Russia has previously expressed concerns about the role these coalition forces have played in Syria and Iraq especially given their stance over these apparent moderate rebels so we await to see if they are indeed now taking affirmative action.
It would appears that a Moscow – Ankara – Tehran axis is taking shape in the Middle East with particular attention being paid to Syria at this time to deal with the Islamic State terrorist threat. Clearly there are matters to be ironed out over their apparent differences concerning the future of Assad in Syria, Russian support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization and particularly the relationship between the Sunni Turkey and its main Shi’ite rival, Iran. The extent of the role of the US led coalition forces appear to have been relegated to a mere afterthought, especially in light of developments between Russia, Turkey and Iran. Recent developments in Aleppo would suggest that a major turning point has been reached and Assad’s tenure in Syria has never seemed more secure since this conflict began in Syria back in 2011.