Turkish, Russian, Iranian trilateral coordination to be established on Syria

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 18.08.2016 21:21
Updated 18.08.2016 21:22

With the normalization of bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia, Turkish media outlets have reported that Moscow has taken diplomatic steps toward establishing a permanent solution to the ongoing Syrian civil war with a trilateral coordination group of Turkey, Russia and Iran. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed the significance of Syria in a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, and said: "Russia, Iran, Iraq and Turkey must unite for Syria. … We are neighboring countries to Syria. We must discuss Syria with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, but we must no longer discuss Syria with those countries that do not have relations with it." Media has reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met with Syrian opposition representatives on Aug. 16, which Russia has confirmed, initiating efforts to establish the trilateral coordination group with Turkey and Iran to end the ongoing civil war.

With U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Turkey on Aug. 24 described as the arbiter to the first meeting of the trilateral coordination group, Bogdanov is reportedly continuing his talks with some opposition groups in Syria until the first week of September. Since Russia, Iran and Turkey have all agreed to maintain Syria's territorial integrity, it is expected Russia will suggest a three-step plan. According to the plan, the first step would be to provide a safe return for refugees to Syria within two years while establishing safe passage to the Jarablous-Azaz road that Turkey and Russia would jointly control. Furthermore, within the two years it is expected that the Damascus administration will be transformed into a strengthened federal governing system. The system mentioned in the media indicates that it aims to integrate all groups into the political system in Syria.

sident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin Russia on Tuesday means something beyond new economic agreements and the acceleration of projects. Both leaders stressed their willingness to forge a new alliance in the region and find common ground on several issues.

After relations declined following an incident when a Russian jet was shot down by a Turkish pilot for violating Turkish airspace, Ankara and the Kremlin are set to pick up where they left off.

The two leaders aim to improve communications. Erdoğan and Putin exchanged ultimatums and threats following the downing of the Russian jet.

The future of Syria and Bashar Assad seems to be the greatest obstacle in the way of a perfect relationship between Erdoğan and Putin. Whether Putin will agree to a regime without Assad remains an open question.

Another problem for Turkey is with Russian support for the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Turkish relations with the U.S. have gone south since February, following a statement from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby that the U.S. does not consider the PYD's armed faction, the People's Protection Units (YPG), to be a terrorist organization.

There is the possibility that the two countries will abandon the table if they cannot agree on policies regarding Syria. This possibility makes some wonder whether the two leaders might once again burn bridges.

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