Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan were meeting in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss Syria, the latter seeking to convince the justification of its proposal for a “security zone” in northern Syria, to prevent any Kurdish autonomy.
At the start of the meeting under the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart as “my friend”, before stressing that they would “study regional security issues and actively cooperate on Syria”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warmly welcomed the Russian head of state and paid tribute to “a solidarity that has brought significant results in terms of security”.
A press conference is scheduled for the end of this meeting, which has become almost routine, even though the two men are pursuing apparently opposing goals in Syria.
Russia is militarily supporting the Damascus regime while Turkey is helping rebel groups wanting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, but they say they are working together to find a political solution to a nearly eight-year-old conflict.
Moscow and Ankara have agreed to coordinate their field operations after surprise announcement by US President Donald Trump in December of the withdrawal of his 2,000 troops engaged in Syria.
In a speech on Monday, Erdogan said he would plead with Putin for the creation of a “security zone” administered by Turkey in the north. Mr. Trump spoke for this idea in mid-January.
The Kurds, who control most of this region, and who are allied with the Americans, are extremely hostile to the proposal, fearing a Turkish offensive.
For its part, Russia has been defending a simple line since the beginning of the conflict, under which the Syrian regime must regain its sovereignty over its entire territory.
“We are convinced that the only correct and optimal solution would be to put these territories under the control of the Syrian government (…), while realizing that the Kurds must be assured (that) of all the necessary conditions (at the life) in their traditional homes “will be met, said last week the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov.
– Summit with Iran –
The announced American withdrawal in this sense supported the plans of the Kremlin and Damascus. So much so that the Kurdish forces most exposed by the departure of the United States asked the Syrian regime to help them face the prospect of a Turkish attack.
Russia welcomed the entry of government forces into the Minbej region at the end of December for the first time in six years after a Kurdish militia invited them there.
Moscow is preparing a tripartite Russia-Turkey-Iran summit in the coming months to continue the Astana peace process, initiated by these three countries in 2017. “For now, no date has been set, but after negotiation with Erdogan we will begin preparations, “Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in mid-January.
The last summit between Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rohani took place in Tehran in early September, with the fate of the Syrian province of Idleb (north-west) as the main concern. It had ended in failure.
Relations between Russia and Turkey had been severely tense in 2015, when the Turkish army had shot down a Russian military plane over Syria. The following year, the two presidents had sealed a spectacular reconciliation, finding points of agreement on Syria.
The two countries are now cooperating closely on the Syrian issue, but also in the field of energy, with the construction by Russia of the first nuclear power plant in Turkey, as well as in the armaments sector.