Our Analytics 28 august — 18:20

Erdogan was told in Moscow that Idlib was theirs (Results with Azeri Daily)

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BY IGOR PANKRATENKO

Following the yesterday (27 August) meeting in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they were looking forward to working together to ease tensions in Idlib province. Judging by what has already become known about the dialogue between the two presidents, it is safe to say that the hope for the best is the most stable thing that exists in Russian-Turkish relations.

When at the end of last week, information came that the meeting of the Russian and Turkish presidents would be held on the sidelines of the MAKS international air show on the outskirts of Moscow, it was not difficult to guess: the Russian side prepared a special program for Erdogan. And the real agenda, which Erdogan was particularly worried about, would remain behind the scenes.

Plus, the Russian side tried to create such a backdrop for the meeting, so the Turkish president felt the vulnerability of his position in Syria compared with the successes of Moscow: the opposition's counterattack from Idlib on the attackers was suppressed. Moreover, the forces of the Russian military police blocked one of the observation posts of the Turkish army in Greater Idlib.

In a word, Erdogan was literally informed about Moscow's preliminary position: Idlib is ours, and this is not being discussed. And as a consolation, we sent you the second batch of the S-400s today, you can now buy Su-35 and various aviation products, even send your astronaut into space. By the way, we still approve of your joint security zone in Northern Syria with the United States, go on, there are no questions, since nothing happened with the Kurdish enclave of Afrin. But Idlib, we repeat, is ours.

Which, of course, in no way could and cannot satisfy Turkey and its president. Since Idlib today is much more than a territory controlled by the opposition forces loyal to Ankara. This is an area that may well become a source of serious problems, since a new wave of refugees has gone from Idlib, fleeing from 'liberation' by the government forces. Of course, to Turkey.

Their number is estimated at 200 thousand people over the next month and a half. But Ankara has already accepted more than three million Syrians. Maximum it can take another half a million. After which the collapse will begin, the country is simply not able to withstand such a burden, both social and financial. $35 billion: refugees from Syria cost so much to Turkey, and about three million more have accumulated in the Greater Idlib area, ready to cross the border.

And now, instead of -- as Ankara planned -- gradually repatriating the refugees back to the territories controlled by Turkey, it has to accept the same amount? To face the truth, this is a direct threat to national security, for which any means are suitable.

Unofficial sources say that on the eve of his visit to Moscow, Erdogan allegedly mentioned that if the situation in Idlib was not resolved and the status quo was not restored, then the Turkish army would enter this territory. Since the limited presence there in the form of 12 observation posts, stopped neither Damascus nor Moscow. Whether he said it or not is another question. It's just another proof that he wasn't going to accept the script that he didn't write.

The situation is at an impasse. Sochi Accords, Memorandum 2018 no longer work. Moscow with its proposals for the purchase of new equipment seeks to bring an ever greater split in relations between Turkey and the United States. But at the same time, it is pressing its line about the 'territorial integrity of Syria' and is striving to put Ankara in an extremely difficult position, intending to dictate the rules of the game to it.

And that the Turkish side cannot agree with at all, since agreement to it will mean for Erdogan a crushing defeat of his many years of policy with respect to the Syrian conflict. Greater Idlib will be lost as the territory where the 'other Syria' would be built, without Assad, and a security zone in Northern Syria.

Is it any wonder that in such circumstances, Erdogan had no choice but to do two things yesterday. Firstly, plainly and clearly explain to Moscow that its disregard for Turkey's interests in the situation with the Greater Idlib will lead to Ankara's symmetrical response. Extremely tough.

Secondly, to state his vision of the further development of events, and in such an option that will allow everyone to save face. Turkey is curtailing its presence in the eastern and southern parts of the Russian de-escalation zone. But at the same time, it retains control over the border strip adjacent to the M4 and M5 motorways, including Idlib.

That is, Ankara creates a buffer zone, in which the Turkish Army maintains security, including from attacks by 'government forces.' Only such a measure can prevent the flow of refugees and ensure the interests of Turkey in the Greater Idlib area. Moreover, this is a fairly compromise option, which Moscow and Tehran can accept without much damage to themselves. Well, they will be able to 'persuade' Damascus too.

Erdogan hopes to get Moscow's response in three weeks, at the Ankara-Moscow-Tehran meeting. And there is no doubt that during this time he will try to 'prepare the situation' in the Idlib region accordingly, so we expect news from there.

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