Global Perspectives | Turkish-Russian Relations
Experts on the relationship of events in Syria and the South Caucasus
The positions of the Syrian government forces in Idlib province were subjected to rocket and artillery shelling from Islamist groups supported by Ankara, media reported on Tuesday, October 27, citing a statement by the official representative of the National Liberation Front of Syria. Casualties reported among Russian military and Syrian government forces.
Recall that, according to reports from Syrian human rights defenders and observers, on the eve of a strike on the training camp of one of the armed formations of Bashar al-Assad’s opponents, located in Idlib, was struck by Russian aviation. This led to the death of dozens of people..
Earlier, Ankara and Moscow reached an agreement on a truce in Idlib, which stopped the offensive of Assad’s forces, prevented bloodshed and mass migration of civilians.
Idlib is the last rebel enclave in Syria. Let’s remind that this province borders on Turkey. Before the war, less than 1.5 million people lived here. Now there are about 3 million people on the halved territory, including a million children..
Earlier, the US State Department – in connection with the terrorist attack in the province of Aleppo – issued a statement condemning the continued violence in Syria. The document, in particular, notes that Washington strongly supports the UN calls for an immediate ceasefire throughout Syria, as well as efforts to promote a political settlement of the conflict in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution.
Independent experts see the relationship between the events in Idlib and Nagorno-Karabakh, where Turkey provides comprehensive support to Azerbaijan.
Alexander Shumilin: “Moscow and Ankara are trying to put each other in place”
The head of the Europe-Middle East Center of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Shumilin, in an interview with the Russian service of the “Voice of America” noted that he considers the air strike on Idlib mainly in the context of what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh. In his opinion, the attack on the rebellious province was caused by Turkey’s participation in the South Caucasus conflict on the side of Azerbaijan..
“Moscow, acting in violation of the agreements with Ankara on Idlib, quite deliberately strikes at the facility controlled by Turkey (in Syria),” states Shumilin. – This is, of course, a signal to Erdogan, a very transparent hint that the Turkish army and Turkey as such have enough vulnerabilities. Another thing is what the answer will be. Directly Erdogan, of course, will not want to conflict with Russia in Syria. But it is not in the tradition of the Turkish leader to leave such challenges without consequences either. “.
If the escalation continues, this could lead to the disruption of the truce in Idlib, the analyst said. However, so far, in his opinion, such an outcome is not at all predetermined: “Now everything depends on the response of the Turkish side. In principle, by and large, no one is interested in stirring up the conflict, but everything can be. We will follow the development of events. Moscow and Ankara are trying to put each other in place. And how carefully and accurately they weigh their decisions at the same time, time will tell ”.
Shumilin admits that Turkey’s response may follow in the theater of military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Alexey Malashenko: “Events in Idlib and Karabakh are indirectly linked”
The head of scientific research of the International Institute for Dialogue of Civilizations, Professor Alexei Malashenko, in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America, stressed that the pro-Turkish forces opposed to Assad are creating a united front in Idlib of various Islamist organizations. From his point of view, if this happens, then both Assad and Russia will have additional problems..
“So, on the one hand, this could be an attempt by Moscow to prevent the consolidation of“ extremist ”groups,” added Malashenko. – The question is how Ankara will react and how it will be linked to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. I think this is Russia’s reaction to Turkish activity in the South Caucasus. Erdogan paused. Now we need to watch where he answers – in Syria or in Karabakh “.
At the same time, Malashenko believes that the warning made by Moscow in such a harsh form looks rather risky. Because, as he put it, if the Turks in Idlib begin to behave more decisively and actively, then it will not seem to anyone.
“However, it is impossible to draw deep conclusions now, since none of the actors really knows how to behave. But the events in Idlib and Karabakh are indirectly linked, there is no doubt about that. This is a new factor that everyone will have to reckon with in one way or another. And now there will be enough speculation about this, ”the expert emphasizes..
Kerim Khas: “Idlib has become the most suitable place for Russia to demonstrate its position”
The events taking place in Idlib are undoubtedly connected with the actions of Turkey in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish political scientist Kerim Khas is convinced. According to him, the aggravation of the conflict in the South Caucasus only temporarily distracted attention from Idlib, which still remains “a real powder keg.”.
“According to the March accords between Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan, two important points were planned in Idlib: the creation of a six-kilometer security zone along the M4 highway to withdraw heavy weapons and jihadist forces, as well as the implementation of joint Russian-Turkish patrols,” recalled the interlocutor of the Russian service “Voices America “. “None of the agreements was actually fully implemented: patrolling stopped, and the creation of a corridor for the withdrawal of militants, for which Turkey was responsible, did not take place.”.
The latest blow by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the Ankara-backed formations in Idlib, which Turkey does not recognize as terrorist, is most likely one of Moscow’s last warnings to Erdogan, suggests Kerim Khas. In his opinion, Russia did not accidentally choose the time to strike at the stronghold of the remaining anti-Assad groups..
“Turkey is literally ‘stuck’ in foreign policy problems, and its frank incitement by Azerbaijan to more active military actions in Karabakh, despite repeated announcements of turning the fire, is something that cannot be ignored by Moscow. Idlib has become the most suitable place for Russia to demonstrate its position and attitude to what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh with the active participation of the Turkish leadership, ”the political scientist sums up.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch recently said that the shelling of Idlib by the Russian army and the forces of the Assad regime, as a result of which hundreds of civilians were killed, are war crimes..