Next step for Turkey is to secure desirable deal on Idlib with Russia - columnist

Turkey has reached its aim regarding the situation in northeast Syria and Ankara's next aim should be securing a resolution for Idlib with Russia, Soli Özel, an international relations professor at Istanbul's Kadir Has University, said on Friday.

Ankara has already been working with Kremlin for a long time on Syria's political process and the ceasefire in Idlib. In a 2018 deal with Russia, Turkey agreed to establish a demilitarised zone in Syria's last rebel enclave and a crackdown on jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in return for staving off a destructive Syrian regime offensive into the province, which would likely have resulted in millions more Syrians fleeing into Turkey itself. 

Turkish officials held talks at Turkey's Presidential Complex hours before Erdoğan met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence over the planned ceasefire, and this was not an accident, Özel said.

The 13-point agreement between the United States and Turkey does not include the return of Syrian refugees to the areas where Turkey calls a safe zone. Turkey will discuss unsettled parts of the U.S.-Turkey agreement, as well as the future of Idlib with Russia since it has become the actor in the region following U.S. withdrawal, according to Özel. 

But the most important task ahead of Turkey is to secure a desirable deal on Idlib to avoid a new wave of refugees and instability in the region, Özel said.