Turkey’s president eyes oil-related bargains in Syria after failing to achieve his stated objectives in Idlib and acquiescing to a new deal with Russia in the rebel stronghold.
The leaders of Turkey, Germany and France are scheduled to gather in Istanbul on Tuesday to tackle the surge in refugees fleeing Syria as the Bashar al-Assad regime presses its offensive against the last rebel bastion in Idlib province. Frustrated by what it sees as Western inaction and lackluster support in a crisis that has seen more than 1 million Syrians flee toward the Turkish border, Ankara has opened its borders to migrants seeking to enter Europe, creating a crisis for Greece and other Turkish neighbors. Ankara is requesting air defense support to back its troops in Syria and wants more European funding to help defray the costs of the 3.5 million refugees Turkey now hosts. The summit is expected to focus mainly on financial assistance, with European leaders reluctant to get more involved in the war.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also join Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish officials said on Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic, however, may throw those plans in disarray. A German government official signaled today that the summit may be postponed as Europe copes with the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Russia, which declined to participate in next week's summit, is set to begin joint patrols with Turkish military forces along Syria's east-west M4 highway on Sunday, in accordance with the deal struck between Turkey and Russia in Moscow last week.
Having failed to deliver on his ultimatum to the Assad regime, Erdogan now has a serious credibility problem domestically.
With renewed fighting in northern Syria, regime officers are transferring conscripted young men from Daraa in the south to the front lines of the battles, leading to defections.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke by phone with his Russain counterpart Sergey Shoigu March 10 about the progress of the bipartisan protocol over Idlib that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed in Moscow on March 5.
Turkey's president, after meeting with EU leaders, says Greece should open its border with Turkey to migrants and then let them cross into other European countries; Russian and Turkish patrols for a new security corridor straddling Syria's M4 highway also are set.
While struggling to achieve its objectives in Syria, Ankara has helped Damascus gain a new ally in the opponents of the forces Turkey is backing in Libya.
BESA Center Perspectives
March 9, 2020
The Gatestone Institute
March 6, 2020
The Jerusalem Post
March 6, 2020
Turkey on Sunday launched what it called Operation Spring Shield against Bashar al-Assad's forces in northern Syria, shooting down two Russian-made Syrian air force jets. Turkey said it had destroyed several air defense systems and more than 100 tanks and killed more than 2,000 Syrian troops, including three generals, since Feb. 27 airstrikes killed three dozen Turkish soldiers in Idlib province, Syria's last rebel bastion. Turkish forces have also been hitting Syrian Kurdish positions.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today he hopes to reach a “cease-fire agreement” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they meet on Thursday. That same day, US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey will lead a delegation to Turkey for a summit on the Idlib escalation.
Iraq's prime minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi withdrew his candidacy for the post on Sunday after parliament failed for the second time in a week to approve his Cabinet, deepening the political crisis in the country. President Barham Salih announced he would designate a replacement prime minister within 15 days. The country could be without a prime minister if Adel Abdul Mahdi, who had stayed on in a caretaker capacity since resigning in October, decides to step down.
Libya's eastern-based government sent a delegation to Syria on Sunday, the first such visit since the Syrian war broke out in 2011. Libyan officials met with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus and agreed to reopen diplomatic missions. The officials also discussed the “Turkish aggression against both brotherly countries,” Syria’s state news agency said. The visit comes as fighting escalates in Libya between the Turkish-backed government in Tripoli and forces loyal to eastern military commander Khalifa Hifter despite a cease-fire announced last week.
The Arab Interior Ministers Council began its annual meeting in Tunis on Sunday. Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is heading the council, met with Tunisian President Kais Saied to discuss the “deep-rooted Saudi-Tunisian ties.” The two-day meeting will discuss ways to boost joint security cooperation between Arab countries to fight terrorism and prevent crime.