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The meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 29th may come down in history.
Putin is hosting Erdogan at Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the Turkish leader will press for a return to the 2020 ceasefire which Ankara has done little to maintain.
The Turkish-backed factions have “complained” that for over a month, Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have carried out daily airstrikes on various positions. Most of the targets belonged to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of the region of Greater Idlib.
Russia and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) strike and shell militant positions due to frequent and heavy attacks on both military and civilian targets by HTS and co.
Most recently, there’s been quite a bit of chatter regarding a major ground operation being prepared by the SAA and Russia, but no movements have been undertaken so far.
To attempt and prepare against such a development, Ankara deployed more troops on the M4 highway south of Syria’s militant-held Idlib.
In March last year Turkish land and air forces stemmed a Russian and Syrian army assault which displaced 1 million people, and brought Ankara and Moscow close to direct confrontation. The ceasefire agreement was signed so that a cataclysm was avoided.
Turkey managed to salvage the situation by taking on some commitments to Russia. It has not fulfilled any of its duties under the agreement, but has been an enabler for all sorts of various violations from the militant side, rather than a guarantor of stability.
Currently, Ankara wishes to either renew the agreement or amend it somehow, so that it may carry on in its attempts to spread its influence.
The meeting between Erdogan and Putin is especially significant, since Ankara likely hopes that it has anything to offer, currently in terms of stability – in the entire Middle East, and more.
It is still questionable what sort of credibility any Turkish promises have; however one thing is certain – Turkey has been working hard to expand its influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and any location that has Turkic people living.
All the promises of a united Turkic world, with Ankara at its head and all the activities towards it, such as bringing a victory for Azerbaijan against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, playing no small part in what initially appears as a partial solution to Libya’s crisis and more give it quite a bit of leverage.
Finally, Europe is expecting a hard winter with gas prices soaring. The majority of gas imports come from Russia and pass through Turkey, and as such Northern Syria may turn into a bone of contention that needs to be solved quickly by Moscow.
Ankara fully understands the position it is in and how much leverage it has, and as such can afford to throw empty and evidently disloyal promises that it’s “partners” need to abide by.