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MOSCOW, January 13. /TASS/. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claims to the effect Russia’s aim in Syria is to create a mini-state around Latakia province is nothing but a propaganda move expected to weaken Moscow’s foothold at Syrian crisis settlement talks or an attempt to propose a way of partitioning the country, polled pundits have told TASS.
As he addressed Turkish ambassadors in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan alleged that Russia had plans for creating a small state around Latakia province, and for that purpose Moscow was dealing strikes against Syria’s Turkomans populating the area in an attempt to oust them from that territory. Earlier, in September, Erdogan claimed that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s aim was to create a dwarf state taking up a tiny 15% of what Syria is today and incorporating Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia - the territories populated by Alawites, Assad’s coreligionists.
Alawites, who currently number one and a half million to three million, constitute about ten percent of Syria’s population. They are compactly settled in strategically important coastal provinces of Tartus and Latakia. President Assad, his family and most members of his inner circle are Alawites.
"Erdogan’s fantasies about Moscow’s alleged plans for creating an Alawite state in Syria have nothing to rely on, but for the fact that Russia’s air group is based in Latakia and been dealing strikes against the line Latakia-Tartus-Hama-Homs with the aim to recapture from the militants 375 kilometers of the strategic road Damascus-Latakia. But Russia is firmly committed to the principle of preserving Syria’s territorial integrity. President Vladimir Putin explained this in very clear terms at the UN General Assembly session late last year," the senior research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Akhmetov, told TASS.
He believes that the conspiracy theory about Moscow’s plot to create an Alawite state in Syria, which some media in the West have been mulling lately and the Turkish president has been so quick to support is timed for the forthcoming round of the International Syria Support Group talks, due in Geneva on January 25. Russia plays a key role in the talks alongside the United States. "Erdogan’s purely propagandistic move against the Kremlin is expected to strip Russia of support from other participants in the Syrian settlement talks and to weaken its positions in international affairs in general," Akhmetov said.
"Russia is not interested in Syria’s territorial split. Even if some politicians in the Near and Middle East supported the idea of forming some new state-like entity around Latakia, that quasi-state would be unable to remain self-sufficient. And there is no reason why Russia should overburden is budget, already experiencing a deficit, with responsibility for several million people," Akhmetov believes.
"It is no less important to remember that nobody in the world will ever agree to recognize a new state in Syria, if it is established in an illegal way. The world community is hardly prepared to create such a precedent that would split the Arab world, where the curve of tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites is already white-hot. Russia has no reason for spoiling relations with the Arab world and with Israel. In the final count, if the dismembering of Syria becomes a reality, the blame will be placed squarely on Russia. Nobody will take the trouble to recall who had started this turmoil that eventually brought the Islamic State into being," he added.
The president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, suspects that Erdogan’s claims about Moscow’s alleged plans regarding creation of a mini-state of Alawites in Latakia as a proposal addressed to Russia: ‘Feel free to get the Alawite lands, but let us have the territories of Syria’s Turkomans.’
"If Bashar Assad were to choose between the risk of Alawites falling victim to genocide and the creation of a mini-state, he would possibly accept. But now the balance of power has begun to change in his favor with support from Russia’s Air Group. In the meantime the real purpose of Russia’s participation in the operation in the Middle East against international terrorism is not Latakia or the Alawites, but protection of its own security," Satanovsky said.
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