Posts Tagged ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan’

In a further sign of growing tensions between the United States and Turkey, Pentagon officials revealed on Wednesday that the Kurdish YPG militia will play a major role in the upcoming attack on the Daesh-held city of Raqqa, and it’s not good news for Ankara.
As coalition forces continue retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh, US officials are looking ahead to Raqqa, the terrorist group’s Syrian stronghold.
American forces are currently on the ground in Syria to train opposition fighters, including Kurdish YPG militia fighters operating within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend. However, a key US ally isn’t happy about it.
“Turkey doesn’t want to see us operating with the SDF anywhere, particularly in Raqqa. We’re having talks with Turkey and we’re going to take this in steps,” Townsend told reporters.
“The only force that is capable on any near-term timeline are the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG are a significant portion. We’re going to take the force that we have and we will go to Raqqa soon with that force.”
Townsend underlined the importance of liberating Raqqa, saying US officials believe the city is where the terrorist group plans most of its international attacks.
“We think it’s very important to get isolation in place around Raqqa to start controlling that environment on a pretty short timeline.”
 As the eastern flank of the NATO alliance, Turkey is a vital ally to the United States and its Western partners. Tensions have been high through the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under Erdogan, Ankara has launched a crackdown on Kurdish communities in the country’s southeast.
In what may have been an effort to appease Turkish leadership, US officials stressed that, while the YPG will play a role in the offensive, it will not be directly involved in taking Raqqa. Townsend added that the US will also play a smaller role in the Raqqa operation than it has in Mosul.
“We’ll have fewer coalition troops there, less combat capability there, we’ll have to apply coalition combat support in a different way than we are doing here in Iraq,” he said.
Expected to coincide with the Mosul operation, the Raqqa offensive is expected to begin soon.
“I think it will be within weeks, that’s what I want to say, and not many weeks,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters on Tuesday.
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Turkey said it would consider establishing international control at two border-crossing points at the Syrian border, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

He noted that Resolution 2165 adopted by the UN Security Council prescribes establishing control over humanitarian supplies and deploying observers to the border area.

According to former Turkish diplomat Metin Corabatir, Ankara will have to agree to deploy UN observers to the border and establish an outpost at the Syrian border.

“Of course, the issue is now being discussed. This discussion was intensified by the normalization between Moscow and Ankara, especially after President Erdogan’s visit to Russia. Turkey is now in a weak position and has to find ways to reach a consensus with Russia over Syria. This is why Ankara will have to agree to deploy observers at the Syrian border,” Corabatir told Sputnik.

He added that one of the main mistakes Ankara has made during the Syrian crisis was the fact that Turkey has kept international observers and specialists away from refugee camps. As a result, now there is a lack of information about the actual humanitarian situation in the region, he explained.

The text of the resolution says that neighboring countries should keep their corridors open for deliveries of humanitarian supplies. The resolution also prescribes delivering humanitarian aid to besieged areas. In addition, according to the document, supplies delivered by the UN can be checked by the destination country and by UN personnel.Ankara would have to let UN and other organizations examine its humanitarian supplies to Syria because previously Russia suggested that humanitarian aid coming from Turkey to Syria could include supplies for militant groups, Corabatir underscored.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has offered to organize a trilateral meeting between Iranian, Russian and Turkish officials to discuss the settlement of the Syrian crisis. Asked to comment on whether the proposal was realistic, Russian analysts suggested that recent events have made diplomatic initiatives once considered impossible possible.

In a visit to Ankara on Friday, the first since the failed Turkish coup attempt last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was reported to have offered to facilitate a joint meeting between the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey to discuss settling the Syrian crisis. In the course of his visit to the country, Zarif met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildrim and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Cavusoglu, the Iranian foreign minister also emphasized that the three countries were “key players in the region, and need to engage in dialogue and cooperation.” Hinting at the existing disagreements over the situation in Syria, Zarif noted that “even if there are differences among regional countries, they can be ironed out via dialogue.”

In turn, the Turkish foreign minister emphasized that his country was interested in the security and stability of Iran, adding that the two countries have a common understanding with respect to Syria’s territorial integrity, as well as the need to obstruct the ambitions of “Kurdish separatists.” Moreover, Cavusoglu hinted that Erdogan may make a visit to Tehran in the coming weeks.A day before his meeting with Zarif, Cavusoglu said that Turkey would be resuming its air campaign against Daesh (ISIL/ISIS), adding that Ankara was ready to discuss with Russia the possibility of a concerted effort against the terrorist group, indicating that the Turkish military has details on the location of Daesh bases. “This does not mean that Turkish aircraft and Russian aircraft will be flying together,” he clarified.

In turn, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Russia welcomed Turkey’s readiness to discuss joint actions against Daesh.

Commenting on Cavusoglu’s statements, and on Zarif’s proposal of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish partnership in the Middle East, Svobodnaya Pressa contributor Anton Mardasov wrote that “in Russian society, the Turkish foreign minister’s words caused a split reaction. Until recently, Russian state media did not hesitate in accusing Erdogan and his entourage not only of engaging in the illicit trade of oil and artifacts with the Islamists, but of direct support for Daesh and the Nusra Front terrorists. And suddenly there is this talk of ‘joint operations’ and even the possible closing of the hole in the Syrian-Turkish border.”

Accordingly Mardasov noted, “in the context of efforts to improve relations, such comments could be seen merely as non-binding diplomatic rhetoric. However, as strange as it may sound, and despite the many contradictions on Syria, coordination between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara really is possible.” He added that “for this to occur, it’s not at all necessary for the parties involved to be the best of friends.”

For instance, the journalist noted, the recent efforts by the US-supported Kurdish militia in northern Syria, including their military successes and the creation of a new constitutional order for the territories under their control, are surely unpleasant for Erdogan, since it threatens the creation of a de-facto Kurdish state.

“It’s entirely possible that US support for Syria’s Kurds…was one of the main reasons prompting the Turkish leader to apologize for the downed Russian aircraft,” Mardasov wrote. “Hence also his attempts to improve the heavily damaged relationship with Moscow, which gently supports the Kurds, but advocates for Syria’s territorial integrity. The position of Damascus and Tehran on any form of Kurdish autonomy is extremely negative. In this respect, the interests of Ankara and the pro-Syrian coalition are similar.”

Analysts speaking to Svobodnaya Pressa generally agreed with the journalist’s assessment, suggesting that the flurry of diplomatic activity, including Erdogan’s recent visit to St. Petersburg and the events that followed, really do seem to indicate the formation of some kind of a loose Russian-Iranian-Turkish strategic partnership.

For his part, Middle East and Turkish specialist Yuri Mavashev emphasized as much, noting that “it’s worth recalling that on the night of the coup attempt in Turkey, Russia and Iran took a principled position on the inadmissibility of an unconstitutional change of power in the country.”

“It’s also important to note that all the words of well wishes directed toward the Turkish leadership were accented by a certain expectation that Turkey would change its foreign policy. During the Turkish delegation’s visit to St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin emphasized that he was one of the first to call President Erdogan during the events.”

“This was a clear signal of the fact that Russia and Iran would like to consolidate the changes in Turkey’s political course, which really began to take shape following Ahmet Davutoglu’s departure from the prime ministerial post,” the analyst emphasized.

That this will take time is only natural, Mavashev noted. After all, “what we are talking about is not only about a transition to a fundamentally different policy, but also the use of new policy instruments for dealing with disputed issues. Earlier, it’s worth recalling, Ankara factually adhered to a vector aimed at the disintegration of the Syrian state.”

Moreover, the analyst said that it was worth drawing attention to the fact that the recent string of meetings between Russian, Turkish and Iranian officials has taken place in regular succession. On August 12, Foreign Minister Zarif held talks with Turkish officials. On the eve of the Putin-Erdogan meeting in St. Petersburg on August 9, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran held their own trilateral meeting. Before that, Erdogan declared his readiness to cooperate “more than ever” with Tehran and Moscow to restore peace in the region.

“Therefore, what’s at stake here is the question of cooperation at the political level on the joint solutions to problems, with the parties seeking to at least achieve a status quo arrangement, all without interference from Western countries” and their proxies.

“For instance,” Mavashev recalled, “in late June, a conference held under Saudi auspices of the so-called ‘National Liberation Army of Iran’ was held in Paris. The event was attended by the former chief of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki bin Faisal,” (an official that some experts credit with the creation of al-Qaeda). “At the conference, the former official called for the downfall of the Iranian government.”

“In other words,” the analyst noted, regional powers, and Turkey and Iran specifically, really “do have common challenges. One of them is the Kurdish factor, which stretches across borders. For this reason, it’s logical that Russia, Iran and Turkey are trying to develop new rules of the game in the region – to create a new state of affairs without outside interference.”

In any case, the analyst said, “it’s obvious that for now we are not going to see details on any specific agreements which may have been reached. After all, their respective societies must be prepared for them.” This applies to Turkey in particular, Mavashev noted.

At the same time, Semyon Bagdasarov, a prominent Russian expert in Middle Eastern and Central Asian affairs, suggested that for its part, Moscow must understand very clearly what goals it wants to achieve in northwestern Syria.

“Ankara’s concern is understandable: the Kurdish Federation of Northern Syria, supported by the US, serves as a springboard which threatens to destroy Turkey, since the territory is a base not only for the forces of the YPG, who are affiliated with the Turkish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), but also for the Turkish Marxist-Leninist Communist Party,” whose volunteers have joined the YPG fighters.”For Tehran too, the formation of a Kurdish arc in Syria must also be frustrating, because Iran itself faces skirmishes between the Revolutionary Guards and local Kurdish forces,” the analyst added.

Ultimately, Bagdasarov suggested that “the main problem is that closing the border with Turkey would also mean destroying the infrastructure from which the US and Persian Gulf monarchy-supported militants get their supplies. This will change the situation in Syria, including in Aleppo. But will the Americans really allow the Turks to do so? On the one hand, they cannot let on that they are giving in to Ankara’s blackmail. On the other hand, they can’t deprive their allies of rear bases. My opinion is that Erdogan will be subject to continued pressure,” which will make it very difficult for him to hang on to power.

Forced by geopolitical circumstances Turkey is very likely to make concessions to Iran and Russia on Syria; at the same time, Ankara has seemingly softened its stance toward the Baathist Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad.

According to global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), Turkey could very likely make concessions to Iran and Russia on Syria, even if it does not abandon its support of the Syrian rebels.

“Given the international and domestic forces working against the Turkish government right now, it makes sense for Turkey to set aside its differences with Russia and Iran over some aspects of the Syrian conflict so as to collaborate where they have shared interests,” Stratfor’s report reads.

Although Moscow and Ankara have differences of opinions on the Syrian crisis and Bashar al-Assad’s future, it would not prevent them from teaming up against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).Furthermore, even though Ankara is unlikely to give up its Sunni allies among the rebels, it may “change its strategy in the country to appease Iran and Russia,” the report suggests, citing Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remark that no Syrian solution is possible without Russian support.

Stratfor also calls attention to the fact that “Turkey’s recent closure of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, even if temporary, could be a Turkish concession already made to Russia.”

On the other hand, there are rumors that Ankara and Damascus have scheduled a bilateral meeting, facilitated by Iran, the report adds.

“Though Turkey is highly unlikely to ever support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it could decide to talk directly with al-Assad or support a transition government that includes him. For Iran, supporting al-Assad has been a critical part of its regional strategy, and it is in Iran’s interests to maintain that relationship,” Stratfor points out, stressing that both Ankara and Damascus are opposing the emergence of YPG-run independent Kurdish entity in northern Syria.

The intelligence firm, dubbed a “shadow CIA”, warns that Syrian rebels may turn its back on Turkey if it becomes too friendly with Moscow or the Syrian government.”In fact, some rebel groups have already distanced themselves from Ankara,” it highlights.

For its part Moscow, as well as Tehran, is interested in maintaining closer ties with Turkey, thereby making it appear “as though the United States is the lone irrational outlier in Syria,” the report adds.

Indeed, signs continue to emerge that Russia, Iran and Turkey are very serious about establishing an alliance in Syria. It was reported Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif proposed to hold a trilateral meeting with Turkey and Russia to discuss the settlement of the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile, the Russo-Iranian military cooperation has strengthened with Tehran signaling its readiness to share its facilities and capacities with Moscow to fight Daesh.

Interestingly enough, Turkish journalist Murat Yetkin of Hurriyet Daily News also believes that “circumstances are forcing Ankara to find a new policy in Syria.”

From right: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine Palace

He emphasizes that Turkey has faced a serious dilemma: while it needs to stop the emergence of a new Kurdish entity in northern Syria which borders with the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey and Iraq, Washington is seemingly not intended to restrain its Kurdish allies.To add insult to injury, the US also refuses to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, an alleged mastermind behind the failed coup in Turkey.

On the other hand, Ankara has also failed to get rid of the Baathist government led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In this context, Ankara is likely to adopt a new foreign policy course toward Damascus.

“Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s statements to daily Karar on Aug. 15 suggest that Ankara is in the process of adopting a new, three-point Syria policy. This new policy will prioritize the maintenance of Syria’s territorial integrity, (meaning no separate Kurdish entity), the avoidance of ethnic or sectarian domination, (meaning an end to al-Assad’s Alawite-based government), and the return of Syrians to their country once a solution in Syria is reached,” Yetkin stresses.

But that does not mean that Ankara will push ahead with its “Assad must go” concept.

“Ankara seems to be ready to accept a reconstruction of the Syria government, a coalition perhaps led by the Baath party,” he underscores, adding that it remains an “open question” whether Ankara will agree to accept Bashar al-Assad as a key player in the new government.

Amid the visit by Iran’s Foreign Minister to the Turkish capital Ankara, where he is set to meet an array of senior Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish political analyst Bayram Sinkaya tells Sputnik that the two countries are very likely to set up a platform to discuss the settlement of the Syrian conflict.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is on his official visit to Turkey on Friday to hold talks with high-ranking officials of the neighboring country, which is still reeling from a failed military coup.

Mohammad Javad Zarif comes at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and is set to hold talks with Cavusoglu and to be received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at his palace.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif address a joint press conference following their meeting, next to a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on August 12, 2016
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif address a joint press conference following their meeting, next to a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on August 12, 2016

Sputnik Turkiye sat down with Turkish political analyst Bayram Sinkaya to discuss the possible outcome of the talks.

“The parties to the talks will unilkely set a joint mechanism for the settltement of the Syrian conflict on such a high level, as it was done between Turkey and Russia,” Bayram Sinkaya, who is Faculty Member at Yildirim Beyazit University, told Sputnik.

However, he added, Turkey and Iran might open a dialogue within a so-called “consulatory mechanism” where both sides could exchange opinions on the key issues in the bilateral relations.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Istanbul, Turkey March 19, 2016
The expert stressed that it won’t be a Turkish-Iranian regional alliance, as both Ankara and Tehran don’t currently have the potential for such bilateral relations that could alter the balance of power in the region.

Nevertheless the two countries could set a platform for the comprehensive exchange of views and ideas regarding their bilateral relations and, in particular, regarding the settlement of the Syrian conflict.

The expert noted that the earlier phone conversation between Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, where Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed his intention to more actively cooperate with Russia and Iran on finding the decisions to the regional problems, also might serve as a proof to his suggestions.

Radio Sputnik discussed the recent meeting between Turkish and Russian leaders with Professor Mesut Hakki Casin, a retired military officer who has lectured in military schools on international relations and international law for the last 16 years.

According to the expert, the meeting between Russia and Turkey is a positive sign, showing that the countries are opening a new page in their relations.

“The two leaders’ meeting in St. Petersburg reflects the perfect timing for a quick response to changing world affairs,” the expert said.

According to Prof. Dr. Hakki Casin, the meeting was very important for Turkey especially in the wake of the recent coup attempt. During the meeting, Putin and Erdogan announced that both countries were ready to restore relations and enhance economic and political cooperation. Moreover, the two leaders discussed ways to resolve the ongoing Syrian crisis and eliminate terrorism.

“Putin and Erdogan, in my opinion, have shown distinguished leadership and determination in the ongoing Syria crisis,” the expert said. “I hope, and this is very critical, that Turkey and Russia decide on a joint military and diplomatic mechanism,” he stated, adding that solving the Syrian crisis will stop mass refugee inflows to Europe and Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine palace in St. Petersburg

The expert also argued that Turkey and Russia have similar interests not only in Syria, but also in also in the Black Sea and Caucasus, in particular with regard to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.Moreover, the reconciliation between the two countries shows that there is new alliance being formed which increases Turkey’s independency from the West, he said.

“Russia and Turkey have sent a strong messages to the United States and to the allies of the NATO”, the expert said.

In his first foreign trip after the failed coup attempt in his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes of mending ties as Ankara is increasingly isolated from the West.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a public goal of reestablishing between the countries diplomatic and economic relations frayed in the wake of a Russian bomber aircraft shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, Russia contended that its bomber was over Syrian airspace, while Turkey claimed the aircraft drifted some meters into Turkish airspace for all of 16 seconds.In the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, Turkey is now reconsidering that decision, as well as its friends and allies around the world. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the United States, alongside his leading Turkish ministers, of playing an active role in the failed overthrow attempt or sympathizing with coup plotters. The Turkish leader at one point referred to his former ally Fethullah Gulen, now the number one candidate for Erdogan’s ire, as only “a pawn.”

The United States, for its part, provided no warning to the Turkish regime, if it did indeed know prior to events that there was a threat of overthrow, and had been hesitant to provide an endorsement of the Erdogan regime, until it became clear that the government would survive the coup plot.

Turkey has similarly received a cold shoulder from European Union member states, who refuse to consider fast-tracking Ankara’s accession into the EU or providing visa-free travel to its citizens, citing what they view as the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations in the post-coup attempt purge that has led to the arrest of some 18,000 soldiers and judges and the firing of nearly 100,000 people for purportedly sympathizing with the coup from all sectors of civil service.

Scorned by those he once considered his closest foreign allies, facing growing hostility from neighboring states for supporting the US-led effort against Assad in Syria, and dealing with the difficult aftermath of conducting society after an attempted government overthrow, Erdogan now looks to Russian President Vladimir Putin as perhaps his last resort.

On Monday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with security analyst Mark Sleboda to discuss the implications of the thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia, as well as what can be expected from a meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

“Well, it would be false to say that it is without significance, but I think that the press in both Turkey and Russia, and to some extent the West, are blowing this out of proportion,” said Sleboda. “I think that the best that can be expected, not only out of this meeting, because this is only the beginning of a process, would be the restoration of ties between the two countries — something approximate to what it was before last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian-Turkish border, but not quite to that same level.”

Does Putin have the upper-hand as Erdogan has become scorned by the West?

“It has to be remembered that for a long time now, and particularly in the beginning years of Erdogan’s regime in Turkey, Ankara has had a policy of no problems with their neighbors, peace abroad and peace at home was their mantra,” said Sleboda. “However, as a result of Turkey siding with the US, Saudi Arabia, and the EU in the attempt to overthrow the Syrian government with this proxy war, they have managed to alienate everyone, all of their neighbors, their partners in NATO, the EU, and Russia, who was an important economic partner.”

From right: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine Palace

“Erdogan was already seeking to improve relations with Russia before the coup took place, as well as Israel and Egypt. But there can be no doubt that after the coup these plans were vastly accelerated.”

“I don’t think the West had a direct hand in orchestrating it, as Erdogan himself and members of his party have put out or insinuated, not very subtly, but I believe the West knew about it, and while it was going on they stood back and didn’t provide the assistance to a NATO member, as they have done in previous coups of Turkey,” said Sleboda. “They stood back to see what would happen before they very belatedly announced their support for Erdogan’s government.”

“Erdogan finds himself in a much tighter place now.”