Oct 25, 2019, 3:41 PM
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Tension in Euphrates, agreement in Sochi

Tehran - One of the most important results of the recent meeting of the Presidents of Turkey and Russia was that Vladimir Putin was able to persuade his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to depart from his previous positions and to think of the need to revive the "Adana Security Agreement" between Ankara and Damascus.

President Putin and President Erdogan met Tuesday in Sochi, Russia. After the meeting between Putin and Erdogan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the two presidents had agreed to deploy a force combined of Syrian army and Russian troops in the northeastern Syrian border areas, while the Kurds would retreat within 30 kilometers of the border.

The Russian foreign minister added that the Syrian Kurdish fighters (YPG) would also retreat from the cities of Manbij and Tal Rafat. At the meeting, Turkish and Russian leaders also agreed to deploy a combined force of Russian military police and Syrian government troops in border areas and outside the scope of Turkish operations from Wednesday.

Given the importance of the issue, Turkish affairs expert Mohammad Ali Dastmali in an exclusive interview with IRNA reviewed the developments.

Erdogan's goals in traveling to Russia

Dastmali said that Erdogan-Putin's detailed meeting in Sochi lasted more than six hours as Erdogan was trying to get the most concessions out of Putin and naturally Putin as a well-experienced president did not respond to all of Erdogan's demands.

Prior to his trip to Russia, Erdogan had announced that he was planning to seize the cities of Kobani (Ain al-Arab) and Qamishli and request for Manbij (a city in Aleppo province). He wanted to move forward and get an area of 444-kilometer in wide and 32-kilometer in deep in northern Syria. This means trying to occupy an area of ​​nearly 13,000 square kilometers of land east of the Euphrates. In the West Euphrates, which Turkey previously controlled Afrin, Albab and Jerablus and so, in 900 kilometers of the border between Syria and Turkey, a large strategically land was placed in the hands of Turkey.

Naturally, none of these demands were rational and were unrelated to international law, and it is clear that Putin does not own Syrian land that he wants to give part of it to Turkey or others. In the meantime, Erdogan went too far to persuade Putin, meaning that the Turkish president raised issues that even his team knew such demands would not be met. He, of course, did not return from Sochi with empty hand and got some good concessions. One of the advantages, for example, was that Turkey actually engaged Russia in controlling the security of the eastern Euphrates. Incidentally, this was in Russia's favor. Previously, only Americans could maneuver in the Euphrates.

He added, "Another advantage was that Erdogan was cleverly working to formalize areas that he took from Tal Abyaz to Ras al-Ayn in recent operations and to be implicitly endorsed by Damascus via Putin. In short, Turkey has achieved good results both on the battlefield and behind the table."

Ankara and relations with Washington and Moscow

The Turkish expert on Erdogan's parallel policies said that Turkey's specific geography, Erdogan's and ruling party's pragmatic approach and a combination of Turkey's combined interests in regard to East and West have enabled the Turkish president to work diplomatically in a variety of fields. Although from international relations' perspective the simultaneous link between the two states with the conflicting interests is not surprising it is usually incompatible with our mentality in the Middle East, and we always think that a country that has lunch with the United States cannot have dinner with China and Russia. But at least Turkey does not follow that concept.

Turkey has been a member of the NATO and the US' ally for nearly seventy years and was originally a member of NATO based on fears of threats from the former Soviet Union, but now world and regional conditions have shown to Turkey that any major damage to it has actually originated from the US and it can work with Russia. Russia builds nuclear power plant for Turkey, sends S-400 missile system to Ankara, supplies gas to Europe via Turkey under Black Sea waters, has tourist and trade relations, and has increased its trade volume from $16 billion to $25 billion and they have a dream goal of $100 billion, and they are also working on the Astana negotiations. These are a set of important factors that have brought Turkey closer to Russia, and today America is not in a position to determine Turkey and keep it away from Russia. So I think Turkey's relationship with the US and Russia will continue at the same time, and there is no particular obstacle along the way.

The importance of Tehran's positions for Ankara

Asked about Erdogan's concern over some Iranians' reaction to the recent Turkish operation in Syria, Dastmali went on to say that Erdogan did not explicitly refer to Iranian officials and used the words "some disturbing voices" in a clear and explicit manner. Erdogan expected no criticism and voices during the operation. Perhaps the only official reaction was the cancellation of some diplomatic trips that were probably a temporary decision, but Turkey should also bear in mind that these issues have ethnic and chain continuities and Iran as a country with wealth and capital called plurality and ethnic diversity, whether or not it is affected by these issues. So I think there was no problem and nothing to complain about.

Concerning the Islamic Republic's stance on the eve of the Astana Peace Summit, which was attended by Turkey and Russia on the Syrian issue, he said that Turkey's action created a challenge for Iran. I think Iran has some considerations in this regard that cannot be considered trivial. For example, it should be noted that Iran does not have a common border with Syria, but Turkey has a common border with Syria. It should not be forgotten that Turkey's pragmatic approach allows it to play alongside all countries.

He also added that the issue of Turkey's relationship with various Syrian opposition groups is a very important issue that absolutely cannot be easily ignored. Many people currently working for the new Syrian constitution are already in serious contact with Turkey, and this will affect the course of Syria's future developments. There are grounds for continued Iranian cooperation with Turkey and Russia, and there are areas where Iran cannot enter.

One of the most important results of Erdogan-Putin's visit was that the Russian president was able to persuade his Turkish counterpart to move away from previous positions and to think about the need for Adana agreement between Turkey-Syria relations. I imagine that the current pattern of hostile relations between Erdogan and Assad will change, but at the same time a sudden shift to a new phase of friendship is not realistic, he concluded.

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