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Last Ultimatum from Erdogan. Will Putin listen?

Russia and Turkey: is friendship over?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Russia of non-compliance with the agreements in the framework of the Sochi and Astana formats for Syria. According to the Turkish leader, not only Moscow, but also Tehran ceased to comply with the agreement to resolve the situation in Syria.


– We expected until now that Russia will abide by these agreements, but from now on we intend to act on our own. This is not a threat, but the expectation that Russia will send the necessary warning to the regime of Assad, – he said.


According to him, Ankara is running out of patience due to the ongoing attacks by the Syrian government forces in Idlib province.


– Russia will act differently – either with the regime or with Turkey. Russia tells us that they are fighting terrorists. Who is it? People fighting for their land? – Erdogan waved with a scimitar.


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January 28, it became known that the fighters of the Syrian government army took control of the strategically important city of Maarat al-Numan in the province of Idlib, back in 2012 captured by extremists. A highway linking Damascus with Aleppo passes through Maarat al-Numan. In addition, the city was considered an important stronghold of the opposition.


On the same day, Erdogan had a telephone conversation about the situation in Syria with U.S. President Donald Trump, during which they, according to White House Speaker Jad Deere, agreed on common goals in the region, since they believe that the clashes in Idlib should stop.


Before that, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia and Iran of preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in Syria.


– Russia’s merciless actions, the Iranian regime, Hezbollah, and Assad’s regime directly impede the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria, – he wrote on Twitter. According to him, the American side condemns the barbaric attacks and calls for an immediate ceasefire.


Earlier, American media wrote that Bashar al-Assad launched the most active offensive since the start of an almost nine-year civil war in the country. In their opinion, this indicates the beginning of the final battle between the Syrian Free Army (SFA), supported by Turkey, and Assad’s supporters, supported by Russia and Iran.


It turns out that the peace plan is frustrated? And now what about the “Astana” process, which, according to the Turkish president, is quiet or muffled? Is this the end of our alliance with Turkey? But there were so many hopes that it will continue in Libya, and not only …


An expert at the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements on the Middle East, Mikhail Balbus, urges not to take Erdogan’s words with such seriousness.


– This is a duty protest. Real action does not follow him. The protest is necessary to calm the pro-Turkish part of the militants operating in Idlib.


If we talk about the fact that someone is not doing something, I want to remind you: in the public part of the deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey, the latter undertook to ensure free travel on the M5 highway (Hama Aleppo). In reality, Turkey cannot ensure this, since this region is controled by the clonerach of radical groups led by the former “Nusra Front”, aka al-Qaeda branch.


– What are the common interests of the USA and Turkey in Idlib?


– Both the USA and Turkey are interested in the temporary conservation of the conflict – each for its own reasons. Therefore, it is not profitable for them to free the territory from militants.


– And what is Damascus trying to achieve?


– The goal of the pro-government forces is the complete liberation of the M5 highway and the territories adjacent to it, as well as the liberation of territories to the west and north-west from Aleppo. The interests of the Russian Federation in the Idlib de-escalation zone on the issues of this operation basically coincide. They disagree on the general issue of direct negotiations between Damascus and Ankara.


– Erdogan talks about the suspension of the “Astana process”. What does this mean?


– Erdogan’s words are in no way consistent with deeds. In fact, pro-Turkish militants are being diverted from Idlib province to Libya to support Turkish interests tied to the Saraj government.


Erdogan’s words contain a desire to reconsider the deal with Russia amid the actual collapse of past agreements due to Turkey’s inability to secure its obligations.


– Turkey in reality does not control idlib groups, you mean?


– Turkey can affect only a part of the groupings, while in Idlib, the majority are “Hayyat tahrir al-sham.” Turkey does not affect them …


– Both sides violate the agreement, – said Kirill Semenov, head of the Center for Islamic Studies at the Institute for Innovative Development.


– Of course, we can say that Erdogan was also unable to withdraw the forces of the Khayyat Tahrir ash-sham radicals from the 20 km zone provided for in the Sochi accords of 2018 and replace them there with moderate groups. But on the other hand, it was also rather a technical solution, since the agreements in Astana on the creation of de-escalation zones implied that there would be no operations there. But Ankara itself allowed Assad and the Russian Federation to take control of the other three de-escalation zones, even contributing to this.


The current operation is unlikely to go beyond the borders that Russia and Turkey established in Idlib to transfer part of it to the Assad regime. Erdogan’s outrage is caused by the fact that there may have been some agreements on a temporary truce in Idlib, which would allow Russia and Turkey to more closely address the Libyan topic, but Moscow at first could not deter Damascus from a new attack, and then began to support it.

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