Aug 24 2018

Russia and Turkey need one another in Syria – analyst

Russia and Turkey need to co-operate in the Syrian area of Idlib in order to avoid the area turning into a hot warzone potentially producing millions of refugees, Atlantic Council senior fellow Aaron Stein wrote for War on the Rocks.

“The Russians understand that a government invasion of Idlib would only lengthen the war and prolong their commitment to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Turks do not want to risk yet another massive flow of refugees into Turkey, which would threaten their ability to exercise influence in northern Syria, and undermine their policy of repatriating many of the millions of refugees already in Turkey,” he said.

“They also both recognize that they need each other. Russia depends on Turkey to manage the opposition and Turkey depends on Russia to manage Assad. Only Russia, through its control over the Syrian government’s airpower, can possibly restrain the Assad regime from attacking Idlib. Only Turkey, which has trained and equipped many of the opposition militias in Idlib, can conceivably get those groups to negotiate with the Assad regime and eventually lay down their weapons in support of a peace arrangement both sides agree to.”

Turkey is concerned about the advances of Kurdish-majority forces in northern Syria, while Russia is seeking to return the entire country to its client, President Bashar Assad.

With the rebels in Syria’s north fast losing ground, Turkey and Russia worked together to limit the scope of the war, using Turkish-controlled territory as ground for fleeing insurgents, Stein said.

“Turkey, in essence, enabled the Russian effort to restore the Assad regime’s control throughout Syria,” he added.