Trade, sanctions and Syria dominate Erdogan's talks with Putin

Trade, sanctions and Syria to dominate Putin's talks with Erdogan in Moscow
3 min read
23 January, 2019
Turkey's President Erdogan has met with his Russian counterpart to discuss the ongoing war in Syria.
Erdogan and Putin met at the Kremlin on Wednesday [Getty]

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flown to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, as tensions mount over the fate of northern Syria ahead of a planned US pull-out.

Turkey wants to control a "security zone" in northern Syria  - something which the White House appears to back - allowing Ankara to push out Kurdish militias in the border region.

Russia wants forces loyal to its Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad to take control of the northern regimes.

Despite the differences on this issue, the two leaders appeared cordial with Putin and Erdogan both addressing each other as "dear friend".

At the end of Wednesday's talks, Putin stated that the 1998 Adana agreement was still valid, which was used by Hafez al-Assad to crush the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) presence in northern Syria and revitalised ties between Turkey and Damascus after years of tensions.

Analysts say that the Putin has made it clear his ambition for the Syrian regime to control the northern border regions, after the US withdrawal from Syria, but Kurdish militancy would be dealt with.

It follows the efforts of Turkish officials to win Russian support for its planned military campaign over the border in Syria.

Turkey has intended to establish a "safe zone" in northern Syria, to tackle Kurdish and Islamic State group militancy, which appears to have the backing of Donald Trump but not Putin.

The two leaders appeard to show a unified stance on Syria and other issues, following warming ties between the two countries over the past two years.

"Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability," Erdogan said, according to AFP.

"With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more."

Yury Barmin, a fellow at the Russian International Affairs Council, told The New Arab that beside Syria, other issues remain open for discussion with the presence of officials connected to economy and trade also present.

"Talks will focus on much wider issues than just Syria. Erdogan has brought the ministers of energy and defence with him and people who deal with trade," he said.

Erdogan will be keen to resolve penalties imposed by Moscow on Ankara during a raft of retaliatory sanctions after Turkish forces downed a Russian plane - operating in Syria - in 2015.

The fall-out has mostly been resolved but there remains some visa restrictions on Turks travelling to Russia, along with other sanctions.

If not addressed now, they will likely be resolved at further meetings.

Turkey and Russia both agree that President Donald Trump's pledge to withdraw American forces from Syria will be beneficial to both sides.

"The Americans withdrawing from Turkey is seen as a positive step, while Russia is looking at keeping turkey close to Moscow," he added.

Turkey is keen to crush the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militias, which have been operating in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the Islamic State group.

Ankara argues that the YPG is part of the PKK umbrella, the Turkish-Kurdish militia that has carried out attacks on military and civilian targets over the past 35 years.

Syria cracked down on the militia in 1998 and forced its leader Abdullah Ocalan to leave Syria following Turkish threats.