Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani talk Syria in Sochi | News | DW

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to discuss the last remaining rebel strongholds in the Syrian province of Idlib with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a summit Sochi on Thursday.

The two leaders’ had brokered a cease-fireto create a demilitarized buffer zone in the region . However, an al-Qaida-linked faction  has tightened its grip on the region in recent months, with Russia describing it as a “terrorist nest”

“Ankara promised Russia that Turkey would push out armed opposition forces from Idlib, but it could not keep its word,” Turkish expert Burak Bilgehan Özpetek told WNO.

Read more: What do the US, Russia, Turkey want from the Syria conflict?

Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and increasingly impatient about militants in Idlib.

“We will do all we can to help the Syrian government and its armed forces to solve the problem of liberating their territory,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

Iran also provides massive support to the Assad regime, while Turkey is allied with various opposition groups.

West ‘throwing spanners in the works’

Putin, Erdogan, and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are also expected to talk about a special committee that would be tasked with drafting Syria’s next constitution. Previously, the UN admitted it was unable to create such committee as Damascus objected to the list of the proposed members.

Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov said that Iran, Turkey, and Russia had already presented their own list, but Western countries had “thrown spanners in the works of UN officials, in order to prevent the authorization of the list.”

Moscow was “ready to search for a solution for this situation,” he added.

Read more: US warns Turkey against targeting Kurds in Syria

Ankara moving closer to the Kremlin

The leaders of Iran, Russia, and Turkey have met several times in this format since 2017.

The so-called Astana talks involving the three powers have overshadowed efforts by the US and other Western countries to end the eight-year conflict.

Turkey, a NATO member, is also coordinating with the-US led coalition in Syria, and Erdogan recently suggested creating a Turkish-American safety zone for Kurds. With the US set to withdraw their troops, however, the initiative seems increasingly unlikely.

Putin has been working to draw Turkey closer to Russia as Washington is working to distance itself from the conflict.

“If Turkey remains at odds with the US over the buffer zone, we will be able to observe Turkey getting even closer to Russia,” Kerim Has, formerly with the University of Moscow, told WNO’s Turkish department.

“Maybe Sochi will pose a turning point for Turkey’s Syria policy,” he added “The situation keeps getting more tangled, but time is running out for Ankara.”

dj/rt (AFP, Interfax)

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