Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have succeeded in securing a cease-fire in Idlib from his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, but the agreement ignores points that are a major concern for Ankara, especially the fate of hundreds of thousands of refugees crowded on its borders.
The agreement reached after a six-hour meeting between the two men in Moscow also does not include answers to the issue of Turkish military checkpoints located in areas recently controlled by the Syrian Army.
Turkey launched a large-scale operation against the Syrian forces, which has resulted in dozens of deaths so far, after the killing of more than 50 Turkish soldiers in a series of attacks launched by the Syrian Army in February.
During the days leading up to the summit with Putin, a supporter of the Syrian Army, Erdogan, whose country supports armed groups, demanded the withdrawal of Syrian Army forces from Idlib and the establishment of a safe area on Syrian soil to house around a million displaced people to avoid a new influx to Turkey.
“I think this tactical agreement does not solve all the differences between Ankara and Moscow,” said political analyst Ali Bakir.
“It is unclear whether the Syrian forces will withdraw under this agreement and how the displaced will return to their homes unless this withdrawal takes place.”
For his part, researcher Imre Kaya from the “EDAM” research center in Istanbul believes that the agreement “at least at this stage, does not achieve Turkey’s goal of establishing a safe area to house the IDPs displaced.”
“And for Turkey, which has not been able to count on the support it had hoped from its western allies, it means that a ceasefire is an acceptable way out,” he added.
Erdogan stresses the positive aspects of the agreement in comments to reporters on the plane that brought him back from Moscow.
He stressed that “the cease-fire achieves many gains in several areas,” considering that it “enhances Turkey’s border security in the face of terrorist attacks and the Syrian army” and “forms a basis for restoring stability to Idlib.”
The new truce also allows Turkey to gain some time while waiting for supposed Western support.
Erdogan has repeatedly urged Western countries to support his project to build cities in northern Syria to resettle displaced Syrians.
The recent escalation in Idlib led to the collapse of a previous agreement between Turkey and Russia in 2018 in Sochi with the aim of stopping the fighting in the province, which is the last bastion of jihadi groups and armed factions in Syria.
The new agreement may face the same fate, especially as it does not provide a permanent solution to Idlib, but merely a freeze in battles.
In turn, the French presidency considered Friday that the agreement contains a number of “ambiguities”.
French presidency statement added, “The Russian agenda remains very clear, that is, controlling the whole of Syria in favor of the Syrian regime.”
“The ceasefire is fragile and temporary, because the Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, is determined to restore Idlib and eliminate the jihadists there,” said Jana Jabour, a Turkish affairs expert at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.
Ankara and Moscow have cooperated closely in the Syrian file since 2016 despite their differing interests in this country, but the recent escalation in Idlib threatened a break between the two countries that was eventually avoided.
“They collaborate in important areas, especially energy,” Kaya explains.
Perhaps the so called “honeymoon” between them ended, but their marriage still exists.