The statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after his meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in “Sochi” opened the door to talk again about the relationship that Turkey is currently pursuing with the Syrian regime in Damascus, while it has raised questions about whether there are any intentions to develop what has been “established” between the two sides during the past years of the war, or to keep things as they are.
Although the Syrian file was a “priority discussion” between Erdogan and Putin, the two sides did not provide many details that would create a clearer picture of what this file will be tomorrow, especially regarding the “military operation” that Ankara threatens to launch in the areas under its control. Sirian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria.
When he returned on the plane, Erdogan told reporters in response to a question: “What about the Syria operation?”: “Putin has an approach like: It will be more accurate if you prefer to make it as much as possible to resolve with the Syrian regime.”
Addressing Putin, the Turkish president added: “We say that our intelligence service is already dealing with such issues with the Syrian intelligence, but the whole point is to get results.”
He added: “If our intelligence is doing this work with the Syrian intelligence, we are saying that if terrorist organizations are still playing there, then you need our support in this matter,” referring to Putin’s Erdogan.
“No recognition and appeal”
For many years, Turkey did not recognize the Syrian regime as a legitimate party in charge of the affairs of the Syrian people, and has so far adhered to this position, according to the statements of its officials, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan , during the recent period.
On the other hand, the Syrian regime describes the Turkish military presence as an “occupation”, and its foreign ministry previously demanded that Ankara leave “because it did not enter at the request of the Syrian government,” as was the case with Russia is. and Iran.
It is worth noting that Erdogan’s talk about the Syrian regime comes in the context of talk that has become frequent and “unprecedented” especially by Turkish officials as they have tended in recent months to improve their country’s relationship with assessing the Syrian regime. , and on the other hand they started using “Tones” that were seen by new observers.
This tone was indicated by the statements of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last week, who said that his country had previously held talks with Iran on the expulsion of “terrorists” from northern Syria, and that Turkey ” all kinds of political support for the (Syrian) regime’s work in this regard.” mortgage”.
Cavusoglu added, “It is the natural right of the (Syrian) regime to remove the terrorist organization from its territory, but it is not right for the moderate opposition to see terrorists.”
This is the first time that such kind of political statements have been issued by Ankara regarding the relationship with the Syrian regime.
In the past, the conversation was limited to confirming the existence of only security and intelligence contacts, or within what is described as the “thin wire mechanism”, away from any political communication or intention to open communication channels.
Meanwhile, the statements of the Turkish president, and his foreign minister accept him, indicate that there is a “push” from Assad’s Iranian and Russian allies to develop relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime, after many years of estrangement .
Ahead of the recent tripartite summit in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian touted his country’s role of “mediating” between Ankara and Damascus to “dispel fears related to Syria’s northern borders .”
This was preceded by a similar offer by Moscow in 2019, but relations between Ankara and Damascus remained unchanged without any progress.
A political analyst close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Rami al-Shaer, says that “intelligence channels and security contacts between Turkey and the Syrian regime are conducted by Russia.”
He added to Al-Hurra: “Now Russia is making serious and important efforts to find a solution to ease the tension between Turkey and the Syrian regime.”
Moscow is currently seeking to restore relations between them to “their normal course as it was before the crisis,” noting: “Before 2011, Turkish-Syrian relations were at the highest level of friendship, cooperation and understanding.”
The escalation of talks about Turkey’s relationship with the Syrian regime comes at a time when the former has not yet received a “green light” to implement the fifth military operation it threatens to carry out in northern Syria.
Over the past weeks, there has been a US and Iranian objection, while Russian officials have maneuvered more than one statement about Moscow’s position on what Ankara wants to achieve.
Muhannad Hafizoglu, an academic and political researcher, believes that “the Turkish position on the Syrian regime has not changed. On the contrary, today Ankara puts the ball of combating terrorism in Syria in the court of Russia and the regime.”
Hafizoglu explained to Al-Hurra that “the Russian approach, which is represented by a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus, is not new, and it is still pressing.”
He added, “Turkey says my main concern is to keep the terrorist separatists away from my southern border. If Moscow, in coordination with the regime, can do that, Turkey will be grateful.”
But the researcher considered the above as a “Russian political maneuver to put pressure on Turkey in other files,” noting that “Moscow is fully aware that its international outlet is Turkey, so it always confirms Ankara’s right to keep terrorism away from its national security.”
Over the past months, many Turkish media, including those close to the government, have discussed the nature of the current relationship between Turkey and the Syrian regime, and whether there is any possibility of restoring relations, as has happened between Ankara and other countries, such as Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Last April, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on the government’s “discussions” to start a dialogue with the government of the Syrian regime on 3 “important” issues.
This information was not subject to any official comment from Ankara or Damascus, the two parties that have been on opposite sides since the outbreak of popular protests in Syria in 2011.
The newspaper, which is close to the government, quoted unnamed sources at the time as saying that “the Turkish government believes that Ankara’s role in recent months, especially with regard to the resolution of the Ukrainian war and Russia’s focus there, could be a good time be to solve the Syrian. problem.”
The sources indicate that Turkey “in all its contacts with the Syrian administration” emphasizes 3 indispensable things, namely “preserving the unilateral structure (the unity of the homeland), ensuring the safety of returning refugees,” in addition to ” the activity of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”
Hafizoglu said: “If Turkey was in the process of rapprochement with the regime, it would have done so years ago, and it would not have emphasized the distinction between terrorism and the moderate Syrian opposition.”
But at the same time, it “does not have comprehensive solutions for the Syrian file, due to the lack of action of the international community against it.”
The Turkish researcher considered that “the most important factor in Turkey that makes such statements is the fateful election of 2023, so it wants to close the files (separatist terrorism, refugees) before the end of this year.”
In an article published Monday by the pro-government Hurriyet newspaper, the famous Turkish writer Fatih Shukriji reviewed a series of answers to the question: “How will Putin’s proposal for a solution with the Syrian regime achieve become?”
The author spoke of a “serious trust issue” about the regime’s intentions to restore relations with Ankara, but added: “If there are serious consequences against terrorism. For example. There is a high probability of contact, even if at the ministerial level.”
Now, in addition to the activities of Turkish intelligence, we have a period of diplomatic orientation, including rapprochement with the Assad regime. Many factors will be effective in this diplomacy.
However, Turkish political researcher Hisham Gunay sees things differently, explaining that “the relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime have greater internal than external dimensions.”
Junay told Al-Hurra: “The Turkish opposition has an agenda to restore relations with the regime if it wins the elections, while the government claims that the Syrian regime is a criminal and its hands are stained with the blood of a million Syrians, while many cause devastation and emigration.”
The Justice and Development Party government constantly criticizes any statement from the opposition that comes in the context of “normalizing relations with the Syrian regime.”
The researcher adds: “Therefore, restoring relations with the regime (internally) will be very difficult for the AKP and President Erdogan. How will the Turkish public opinion be convinced on this point?”
There is also the issue of Syrian refugees inside Turkey, who number more than 4 and a half million people. The researcher notes: “These people have an impact on any step towards the normalization of relations with the Syrian regime. There may be a reaction from their side.”
Junay believes that “establishing a direct relationship” between Ankara and Damascus “is difficult at the moment”, and that this issue “is not raised in the Turkish interior.”
And he continues: “Iran and Russia want to restore relations, because they find their interest in Assad’s survival. The matter is not so easy for Turkey, and this contrasts with what happened to Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Egypt. The Syrian situation is completely different.”