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03/23/2020

Last week in Turkey: Turkish-Russian cooperation targeted in Syria

Last week in Turkey: Turkish-Russian cooperation targeted in Syria

Although the Coronavirus has become the main subject of interest in Turkey and the rest of the world, the geopolitical struggle in Syria also continues.

After the martyrdom of 36 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in Moscow where they signed an agreement which included a ceasefire in Idlib, a security corridor set up along a key east-west highway and joint patrols from both countries’ soldiers in the region.

Jihadist provocations in Idlib

On March 15, the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that Turkey and Russia had completed their first joint military patrol along the M4 highway linking Syria’s east and west.

However, on the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defense declared that “in order to inflict provocations, terrorists were trying to use the civilians as a human shield” forcing the joint military patrol to be cut short.

The Turkish side has been silent about the reason the first patrol was cut short.

On March 19, Turkish troops came under rocket fire near Mount Zawiya on the M4 Highway. Three Turkish soldiers lost their lives during the attack. After the attack, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said that the attack was organized by “some radical groups” and that the Turkish army “retaliated against the attack immediately” by hitting the determined targets. The area where the Turkish troops were attacked is known to be an operation base for Al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

The groups provoking the Turkish-Russian joint patrol and the groups which targeted Turkish troops just five days after are likely being controlled from the same place. Some of these Al Qaeda-affiliated groups have openly refused the March 5 deal between Ankara and Moscow.

These separate attacks have mainly targeted Turkish-Russian cooperation in Syria; the martyrdom of the 3 Turkish soldiers is undoubtedly a message to Ankara.

Ankara and Moscow’s next step

Ankara and Moscow clearly do not want to lose each other as allies, something which has been made clear in the insistence on cooperation between the two capitals despite such heartbreaking incidents. Today, the ceasefire and the agreement in Idlib are important tests for these two Eurasian countries.

It is well known that most of the groups that carry out such provocations in the region are soldiers of fortune hired by various intelligence agencies. The United States is one of the main forces opposed to Turkish-Russian cooperation.

The Coronavirus has put a temporary pause on political and military movement in Syria as it has throughout the whole world. This is unfortunately clearly a suitable environment for terrorist organizations in the region. New provocations are likely to occur in the coming days. At this point, the persistence of Turkey and Russia’s joint patrols is a necessity.

 

The Russian side is playing a more active role than Ankara in the fight against jihadist groups, helping to ease the pressure on Turkey in Idlib. As the fight against the jihadists goes on, Moscow and Damascus’ actions against the US-backed PKK/YPG terrorist organizations operating in the east of the Euphrates River will help accelerate the clean-up in Idlib and strengthen the trust of the Turkish side. As the world works its way through this difficult period, regional cooperation is more critical than ever.

 
Onur Sinan Güzaltan
Onur Sinan Güzaltan was born in Istanbul in 1985. He had his Bachelors's degree in Law, from the Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne Universty /Paris XII and a Master's degree in International and European Law. He got his certificate of diploma equivalence at Galatasaray University. Later, he got a Master's degree in International Trade Law, at the Institut de Droit des Affaires Internationales, founded jointly by the Sorbonne Universty and the Cairo Universty. In this process, he had served as the Cairo representative for the Aydinlik Newspaper. He has several articles and television streams within the international press, in such as People's Daily, Al Yaum, Al Ahram, Russia Today FranceAl Youm Al Sabea. In addition to being the author of the Tanrı Bizi İster Mi?, a work that studies the 2011-2013 political period in Egypt, he had also contributed to the multi-author study titled Ortadoğu Çıkmazında Türkiye, with an article that focused on the Turkish-Egyptian relations. While currently working as a lawyer, he also writes a weekly column for Aydinlik Newspaper on the subject of international politics and geopolitics.

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