Turkey, Russia cooperate in Syria despite differences

Smoke rises following an airstrike on the opposition-held besieged town of Harasta, in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2017
0

Turkey, Russia cooperate in Syria despite differences

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a closed meeting on Tuesday for about four hours, with a focus on deepening their relations and the latest developments in Syria.
It was the sixth time the two leaders had met, and this year Erdogan visited Russia three times.
“Turkey and Russia agreed that grounds have emerged for political resolution in Syria,” Erdogan said during a joint press conference at the presidential residence in Russia’s Black Sea coastal city of Sochi.
Parallel to UN-backed negotiations in Geneva, Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantor countries of the Astana deal, and have begun implementing “de-escalation zones” and cease-fire monitoring missions in northern Syria.
During the press conference, Putin said the meetings with Turkey about the Syrian crisis had contributed to decreasing the level of violence.
But before departing for his meeting with Putin, Erdogan criticized a consensus between the Russian and US presidents that “no military solution is possible” in Syria.
“I’m having difficulty understanding these comments. If a military solution is out of the question, then those who say this should pull their troops out,” Erdogan said.
“If a military method isn’t a solution, one should apply to the political method and find ways to go to elections as soon as possible.”
At the end of the meeting, Putin and Erdogan agreed to focus on a political solution.
Nursin Atesoglu Guney, dean of the faculty of economics, administrative and social sciences at Bahcesehir Cyprus University, told Arab News: “During this meeting, both leaders showed a willingness to continue their… partnership in Syria.”
She said: “Russia would like to balance the US weight in the region... Ankara also wants to play a delicate balancing game regarding the big actors in the region, because Syria is currently at the epicenter of global fault lines.”
A point of contention between Moscow and Ankara is the participation of the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the Russia-sponsored Syrian Congress on National Dialogue.
No statement was made about it during the press conference, though Moscow recently denied Turkish claims that the Congress had been postponed.
Ankara strongly objects to inviting the PYD, and experts do not expect the issue to be resolved soon.
Moscow does not consider the PYD a terrorist group, and is trying to give it a diplomatic platform.
But Ankara sees it as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and EU. Ankara vetoed the PYD’s participation in previous peace talks on Syria.
Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said although Moscow views Ankara as a very important regional actor in resolving the Syrian crisis, it believes the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), can play a significant role in Syria’s political future.
“Considering the close political and military ties between the PYD/YPG and Washington, it’s important for Moscow to use its developing relations with the PYD/YPG as a potential card at its disposal vis-a-vis the US,” Ersen told Arab News.
Ankara has expressed concerns over military links between Russia and the PYD/YPG in the Afrin region of Syria, he said.
The main motive for Turkey in cooperating with Russia and Iran in the de-escalation zone in Idlib province is the expectation that this cooperation can be extended to Afrin, in which Ankara has stated its intention to launch a military operation against the PYD/YPG, he added.
“At the same time, however, Ankara and Tehran are closely watching Moscow’s dealings with Washington,” Ersen said.
“As indicated by the latest meeting between the Russian and US presidents, the agenda of the two global powers differs significantly from that of the regional powers,” he added.
“Since both Washington and Moscow enjoy close relations with the PYD/YPG, Ankara’s reservations on this issue can be ignored, which might be detrimental to Turkey’s interests in Syria.”


OIC chief holds talks with ministers during UN General Assembly

Updated 30 min 38 sec ago
0

OIC chief holds talks with ministers during UN General Assembly

  • Al-Othaimeen attended the reception ceremony hosted by Donald Trump on Monday
  • The Palestinian issue was also top of the topics that the chief of OIC discussed in his meeting

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, met the United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
They discussed the latest developments in the Syrian crisis, and Al-Othaimeen emphasized the need to reach a peaceful solution and address the humanitarian situation.
Al-Othaimeen also met Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations in all fields of cooperation, especially in fighting terrorism and extremism, in addition to discussing the Palestinian issue and supporting UNRWA, the relief agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East.
The Palestinian issue was also top of the topics that the chief of OIC discussed in his meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who said his country gave the Palestinian issue special attention, highlighting that there is a large Muslim community in Venezuela and that his country is keen to strengthen relations with the OIC.
Al-Othaimeen met the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. They discussed the latest developments in Iraq following the elections and the Basra events, and the importance of holding the Makkah II conference to achieve social reconciliation in Iraq. He also stressed OIC’s support for stability in Iraq.
Moreover, the chief of OIC met the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, and stressed the support of his organization for Kosovo until it wins the recognition of OIC member states as an independent state.
Al-Othaimeen attended the reception ceremony hosted by US President Donald Trump on Monday evening for the delegation heads participating in the UN General Assembly.