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Ankara fans tensions with Moscow in pursuit of selfish ends in Syria

February 04, 18:17 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS Archive

MOSCOW, February 4. /TASS/. Turkey’s refusal to let Russia carry out a monitoring flight under the Treaty on Open Skies, just as the suspension of talks in Geneva following the Syrian opposition’s ultimatum, are clear signs Ankara is desperate to hamstring Moscow in its struggle against the terrorist Islamic State, polled specialists have told TASS.

On Wednesday, Turkey denied permission to Russia to make a monitoring flight over its territory allegedly because it was impossible to reach agreement on the route. The Russian Defense Ministry said the route implied monitoring the situation along Syria’s border. At the end of last week Damascus accused Turkey of shelling Syria’s Latakia Province, where President Bashar Assad’s troops have been pushing ahead with their offensive against Islamic State positions with support provided by the Russian air group.

Doctor of Military Science Konstantin Sivkov believes that the greater Russia’s successes in its terrorist operation in Syria, the stronger Ankara’s wish to bar Moscow from the Syrian settlement process.

"Certainly, there is a great deal for Ankara to hide on the border with Syria, from where it provides artillery support for the Turkomans fighting on the Islamic State’s side. By denying permission to Russia to perform a monitoring flight in this area Ankara dares to openly aggravate relations with Moscow, hoping in this way to provoke its military standoff with NATO and attain its own ends in Syria, Sivkov said.

In this context he pointed to another portion of accusations the Turkish president put forward against Moscow over alleged violation of Turkish airspace by a Russian Sukhoi-34 fighter late last week. Tayyip Recep Erdogan said that such violations harmed Russia and its relations with NATO. To make its charges sound more convincing Ankara declared a higher, "orange" alert, thus enabling pilots to open fire against intruders at their own discretion, without consultations with the superiors.

The president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, believes that Erdogan is so nervous because Syria’s government troops have been recapturing ever more territories from the Islamic State with support from the Russian air group. They have already established control of the road from Aleppo, on the border with Turkey, from where the Turkomans fighting against Assad’s troops had been getting support. "Last week alone about fifteen hundred militants had been moved from Turkish territory to Latakia Province," Satanovsky said.

"Erdogan is bearing heavy, multi-billion losses, as the routes of smuggling oil from Syria and Iraq to Turkey have been plugged. The channels of moving militants to Syria have been upset, too. The Syrian army and Russian air group have ruined his plans for toppling Bashar Assad and annexing northern territories around Aleppo from Syria. This explains why Erdogan is determined to stage another provocation against Russia and set Moscow and NATO against each other," Satanovsky said.

Attempts by the International Syria Support Group to set in motion a Syrian settlement process in Geneva, in which Ankara is not interested at all, is another factor for the Turkish president’s verbal attacks against Russia. On Wednesday, the talks were paused when the Syrian opposition put forward an ultimatum to demand Russian planes should stop dealing strikes against targets in Syria.

In a situation like this the chances of Erdogan’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin are equal to naught. That he would like to meet with the Russian leader Erdogan had declared last week.

"Erdogan’s repeated statements he would like to talk to Putin means that the Turkish president is in a very precarious position. Major investors into the Russian economy and Turkey’s oil companies are furious over Erdogan’s anti-Russian escapades. They are demanding he should resume the talks on laying the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and bring Russian holidaymakers back to the country’s health resorts. By all oriental standards Erdogan is doomed to lose face by seeking a meeting with Putin. But we are an oriental country, too. Putin, who had invariably extended a warm welcome to Erdogan, is unable to forgive him the stab in the back - the Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber, shot over Syria in November. Hence the blackmail, provocations and attempts to coerce Russia into talks by appealing to NATO are doomed to fail," Satanovsky said.

"The downing of Russia’s Sukhoi-24 plane was Erdogan’s terrible mistake. Correcting it would require paying a high price, too high for a person with oriental mentality. This explains why Erdogan is pressing for a meeting with Putin by provoking another crisis in Turkish-Russian relations. The Kremlin is unlikely to yield to this blackmail, though. Moscow has no confidence in Erdogan," the director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov, told TASS.

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