IDLIB – STICKING POINT BETWEEN MOSCOW AND ANKARA

In recent years, the Middle East has become a center of world intrigues, where almost all world and regional powers have interests. More than once there were emerged critical situations that could develop into major military conflicts involving dozens of states.
The outcome of the events in the Middle East today largely depends on the actions of the three key players – Russia, the US and Turkey. Depending on their decisions, ability to negotiate and practical actions, the “Middle East knot” will be tightened more strongly or, conversely, weaken, giving hope for a slow normalization of the situation.
One of the sharpest issues in the Middle East today is the situation around the Syrian Idlib, where, in the opinion of the Turkish side, Russia is trying to make a difficult choice between Assad and Ankara. The successes of the Syrian government army “on the ground” have generated a lot of debate, centered on the assertion that there are no longer for Assad to launch a large-scale operation in Idlib. It is there the last largest enclave of Syrian militants and terrorists is situated.
One of the main issues at the meeting held on 14 July between R. Erdogan and V.Putin was the fate of Idlib. As they write in the Turkish media, at this meeting Erdogan asked the Russian president to “check” with Assad and dissuade him from attacking Idlib, which will spawn another refugee shaft towards Turkey.
It should be noted that Russia, Iran and Turkey last year identified Idlib as a zone of de-escalation within the framework of the Astana process. Up to the present time, these countries have organized several military observation posts separating Idlib from the territories under Assad’s control. That is why the attack on Idlib can nullify the entire meaning of the Astana agreement.
Now, according to Turkish experts, “Putin is at a crossroads” and “must decide” between Assad, whom he saved from overthrowing at the last minute, and Turkey, with which Russia has close cooperation within the format of the talks in Astana.
In the event that Moscow does not stop Assad, it turns out that a long-term relationship with Ankara will be jeopardized. However, the Turks are sure that such a development of events looks absolutely unrealistic.
Nevertheless, in a situation when the international community almost unanimously recognized the fact of Assad’s victory in the war, the Syrian president will almost certainly take advantage of the moment to declare his sovereign rights to Idlib, as an integral part of the country’s territory. Then Russia will somehow have to satisfy its ally, Assad.
In Turkey they are sure that the way that Russia chooses in this situation will be one of the most important issues for the upcoming period of time and the answer to it is closely monitored by Ankara. Idlib remains one of the problematic issues in relations between Ankara and Moscow. After all this decision, in fact, determines the future of Syria’s post-war state structure. In this sense, the most rational outcome is the activation of the constitutional process in Syria with the final demarcation of the opposition against those who accept the new order in the country and, thus, integrate into it and those and those who oppose, falling outside the legal framework.

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