Turkish withdrawal from Syria more likely after official talks - analysts
A meeting between Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs this week in Moscow have opened the door for a deal that could see Ankara back out of the conflict in Syria, the Media Line quoted analysts as saying.
The meeting between Turkish National Intelligence Organisation head Hakan Fidan and Syrian National Security Bureau head Ali Mamlouk marked the first official contact between the countries in years. Turkey downgraded its diplomatic contacts with President Bashar Assad’s government in 2012 and has supported the rebel groups seeking to overthrow him throughout the conflict.
But Turkey is now playing a losing hand in Syria, where the opposition has been boxed in to areas of the north-western Idlib province and hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled Assad’s forces to the Turkish border, Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told The Media Line.
“Turkey is trying to manage chaos and a losing hand simultaneously,” he said. “Russia is slowly pushing … [to] begin the process of reaching a point where they’re negotiating the terms under which the [Turkish military] leaves Syria.”
Besides Idlib, where Turkish troops are manning observation posts, Turkey has carved out territories across northern Syria that it captured in three military operations since 2016. These too will be up for discussion if talks with Syria continue, said Alan Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
“Turkey has limited leverage. Russia is the arbiter in Syria … [and] it was no doubt a bitter pill for the government [Erdoğan] to meet officially with the Assad regime,” Makovsky said. “This meeting is probably a first step in a Russian plan to return Assad-regime sovereignty to the northeast.”
Russia is one of the main backers of Assad’s government, but despite being on opposing sides of the conflict Ankara and Moscow have closely cooperated in its later stages and are overseeing the constitutional committee that aims to bring fighting to an end.