Did Turkey secretly reach an agreement with Russia on Idlib? - MEHMET ACET

Did Turkey secretly reach an agreement with Russia on Idlib?

We are receiving news that military forces under the Damascus regime, that Iran-backed militia have surrounded Idlib from three sides. Based on our previous experience, we can guess the kind of danger the 2.5 million people - largely consisting of those who fled other battle zones in Syria - are facing. A security official in Ankara who has been working on these matters says, "There is nobody besides us thinking about the fate of these people." And he adds a heartbreaking comment: "This is something that takes away one's joy of life."

What will be happening in Idlib in the upcoming days? Are the regime and Iranian militias going to start massacres while Russian jets attack from the air - as we have seen numerous times before? Or will progress be made through negotiations?

Before taking into consideration the Damascus regime or Iran's attitude on both Syria and Idlib, we need to look at where Russia stands, in other words, how it will act. All the signs, its attitude, the statements made indicate that the Russians will support a possible Idlib attack. But there could also be an exception to limit this support.

What is that? Turkey taking action for Idlib and sitting at the table with the Russians again.

We know that on Friday, Aug. 17, the day Eid holidays started, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan went to Moscow and negotiated the Idlib matter with Russian officials.

Let's discuss the nature of these negotiations a little.

Prior to the Euphrates Shield and Afrin operations, we saw the same thing.

Maps are likely being laid on the table; meetings are being held; negotiations are being made; limits are being determined and then the operations on the ground are being carried out in accordance with the decisions taken at that table.

There is no need to mention that Defense Minister Akar and MIT head Fidan are at the center of all negotiations.

One other interesting aspect of this traffic is that the very same two figures headed to Moscow again a week later. We asked a source who works on these matters, "Why did such a thing happen?" The response we received was, "They returned to Ankara after the first contacts. An opinion was formed and then another visit was made to Moscow within the context of this view."

We heard a few things, but we do not know what exactly the "opinion" that was formed within that one week and taken to Moscow is, or whether any agreement was reached within the context of that opinion.

Even though it is not confirmed, we have information based on hearsay: it is claimed that Russia took to consideration the warnings and declarations of concern from Turkey and accepted a limited operation on part of Idlib, in a way that it will not lead to an intense influx of migration toward Turkey.

It might be a good idea at this stage to resort to "interpreting images" to understand whether or not an agreement emerged from negotiations in Moscow.

The photographs from the second visit by the Turkish delegation seem to signal that a compromise was reached rather than a dispute breaking out.

The Turkish delegation of three, including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, being accepted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin; Çavuşoğlu saying, "Some countries are jealous of our relations"; and Putin stating, "We are deepening relations with Turkey" regarding that photograph taken could have been a sign that the Russians care about Turkey's Idlib concerns.

In the optimistic scenario, taking Turkey's warnings into consideration, Russia would hit the brakes on the Idlib issue. But there is also a not so positive scenario.

There is the likelihood of a severe clash that may start in Idlib spreading to currently more calm areas, for example to Aleppo - like I tried to explain in my article last Sunday.

As we mentioned in that article, the evacuations from Aleppo in late 2016 had developed within the frame of an agreement. Idlib was not going to be touched in exchange for these evacuations. One does not need to be a psychic to guess that this was reminded to the Russians during the meetings in Moscow. We can think that a message along the lines of, "If Idlib becomes the target, there is no way that Aleppo will not be affected by this," was sent to the other side.

The Russian deputy foreign minister stated yesterday that the Idlib matter is still being discussed with Turkey and Iran. The Idlib issue is going to be one of the main agenda items of the trilateral summit to be held in Tehran on Sept. 7. Of course, on the ground, the Damascus regime and Iranian militia's siege operations aimed at Idlib are ongoing. However, in the final analysis, what the Russians will say and how they will act is important. We will see what will happen.


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