Damascus (GPA) – Turkey has called on the Syrian Army to halt their advance into territory under control of Syrian rebels Idlib.
The renewed relations between Turkey, Russia, and Iran seem to have hit a roadblock when earlier today Russia’s and Iran’s ambassadors were summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Ankara’s reasons for summoning the ambassadors revolve around the current offensive by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) offensive in Idlib. Idlib is one of the remaining ‘rebel’ strongholds held by both al-Qaeda and, according to Turkey, more moderate rebel groups under their patronage.
Idlib is also one of the deconfliction zones established by Russia, Turkey, and Iran in the ongoing Syria peace negotiations. According to Ankara, these zones should only see low-level skirmishes rather than large campaigns like the one currently underway.
It was this perceived framework which promoted Turkey to call on the ambassadors to tell their leaders to “fulfill the responsibilities [as guarantor states] in Syria,” according to a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkey, which was initially invited to the peace talks due to their connections with rebel groups is now complaining that Russia is targeting said groups. According to Cavusoglu this is being done “on the pretext of fighting al-Nusra terrorist group,” the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate.
While Ankara may be correct, about there being other groups inside Idlib, these groups have also committed crimes against the Syrian state. Also, if the recent past is any guide, whenever ‘moderate rebels’ have been threatened or besieged they’ve tended to ally with more successful takfiri groups like Daesh or al Nusra.
For a recent example of this type of case one only needs to look at Aleppo. Much like Idlib, Turkish President Erdogan also condemned the death of most al Nusra militants in Aleppo. He also provided support and training to al Nusra’s PR wing, the ‘Syrian civil defense,’ aka the White Helmets.
There have also been cases in the past where strong evidence has been supplied showing direct Turkish support for Al Nusra. Even the previous US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone knew this, saying in 2014 that “The Turks frankly worked with groups for a period, including al Nusra, whom we finally designated as we’re not willing to work with.”
Many thought the Turks would have to modify these behaviors after aligning with Syrian allies Russia and Iran to help end the war. However, it now seems the Turks, as usual, haven’t changed anything and are playing their same old games.
Accordingly, Cavusoglu asked Russia and Iran to completely stop the offensive saying “If you are the guarantors – yes, you are – you should stop the regime. It’s not just a simple air attack. The regime is moving in Idlib,” and that “The intent here is different.” Cavusoglu also warned that if Turkey wasn’t consulted more in these operations there is a chance the peace process could fall apart.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.