Russia, Iran unlikely to concede to Turkey on Syria fears - analysts

Turkey’s attempts to persuade Russia and Iran at a summit later this month to pressure the Syrian government to halt its advance in Syria’s Idlib province are likely to fail, Middle East-focused news site Media Line reported on Wednesday. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, both of whom support Syria’s Bashar Assad, have been able to cooperate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the last major rebel stronghold, which has seen heavy fighting since Assad’s Russia-backed forces launched an offensive to retake Idlib in late April. 

Ankara and Moscow agreed a year ago to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib to prevent a Syrian offensive, but al-Qaeda-linked jihadis soon took over most of the territory. As part of the deal, Turkey established 12 military observation posts in Idlib, which have come under attack from Syrian forces in recent months. 

“The problem is if they still don’t fundamentally resolve the permanent status of Turkey in the area, it won’t end the Syrian government’s desire to retake these territories,” said Ryan Bohl, a Middle East and North Africa analyst at Stratfor, a global consultancy group.

Timothy Ash, a London-based economist focused on Russia and Turkey, told Media Line that Erdoğan will use the September 16 meeting in Ankara to push for commitments from Syria that it will not move farther into Idlib. “They like the current status quo,” said Ash. “Erdoğan is in a pretty weak position.”

Further attacks on Idlib could push hundreds of thousands of Syrians into Turkey, which has seen growing resentment toward its 3.6 million Syrian refugees.