What did the Turkish delegation offer Russia?
The Turkish officials, on their excursion to Russia, proposed options for the invasion of Manbij. Following proposals that can be summed up as “part of Manbij for part of Idlib”, Russia has phased into a “wait and see” policy.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, calling on the US to “leave Syria” frequently after their conjunctural alliance with Russia, has started to say, “Don’t rush” following the US decision to withdraw, like they suddenly lost the one argument they had.
The Turkish state has fallen into a void after the US statement that “It is time to pull the plug on Astana” and US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. They are trying to determine a stance between Russia and the US, while making large amounts of military dispatches to the Manbij border and signalling for an invasion.
COMMON STANCE AGAINST COMMON THREAT
In the new political atmosphere that emerged after the US decision to withdraw, all powers in the Syrian field are trying to determine positions, while the Northern and Eastern Syrian Administration and the Syrian government have held a series of diplomatic meetings with Russian involvement after seeing the threat of the Turkish state.
As a result of the meetings held in Qamishlo, the Humeymim Base, Damascus and Moscow, the Northern and Eastern Syrian Administration and the Syrian government have come to an implicit agreement to develop a “common stance” against the Turkish state and their allied jihadist gangs, the “common threat”.
After these meetings, regime forces arrived in the Arima town of Bab where the threats had concentrated and started a partnership with the self defense forces of the region, the Al Aqrad Front, the Bab Military Council and the Manbij Military Council.
This agreement also covers the north of Manbij, i.e. certain areas on the border of Jarablus towards the Sajur stream, and it happened within the knowledge and consent of Russia. Currently there are 3 flags flying in Arima: Russian, Syrian and Al Aqrad Front flags.
This move was critical, in that it happened before a Turkish delegation made up of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, MIT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and Erdogan’s Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin made a visit to Moscow.
Right before the Turkish delegation visit, Russian Presidential Palace Kremlin issued a statement that said they confirmed that Manbij had come under control of the Syrian army.
This statement by the Kremlin did give a bit of insight into Russia’s stance, but didn’t say anything about what the Turkish delegation was bringing to the table.
In the 90-minute-long meeting, the Turkish state brought the issue of Manbij to the agenda and posed some similar options to the Jarablus-Azaz-Bab and Afrin negotiations.
WHAT DID THE TURKISH DELEGATION WANT?
Sources say the Turkish state posed a series of options to Russia, such as “The Turkish army and opposition groups will go 3 to 5 km into Manbij city center from the north”, “Syrian army will advance 3 to 5 km towards Manbij city center from the south”, “A new administration will be formed in Manbij that includes the political wing of the Free Syrian Army” and “Kurds will be removed from the city”.
WHAT DID THE TURKISH DELEGATION OFFER?
In return, the Turkish delegation put Idlib on the negotiation table and allegedly promised to “allow regime forces to advance 15 km from the south of Idlib” and “give control of the Manbij-Bab-Aleppo road to the regime”.
In this process that Arab countries like United Arab Emirates and Bahrain start diplomatic relationships with Syria one by one and Saudi Arabia prepares for diplomatic activity with Damascus, it is said that the Turkish delegation has made promises to Russia that they will take steps to that end.
WHAT DID RUSSIA SAY IN RESPONSE?
The Russian delegation that heard the Turkish delegation’s proposals is said to approach the matter cautiously due to the Turkish state calls to the US to “not rush” the decision to withdraw and the greenlighting of Patriot sales instead of Russian S-400 missiles.
Meanwhile, Russia wants to see the outcome of the meeting the Turkish delegation will hold in Washington D.C. on January 8 and is said to prefer a policy of “wait and see” for the Turkish state proposals. In short, Russia wants to see Turkey’s hand first.
FOOTNOTES OF THE MESSAGES
After the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a statement and said, “We as the guarantors of Astana argue for the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria and are against any and all attempts that would harm them,” in an attempt to give Russia some assurance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We have come to an agreement about the coordination of our units to remove the terrorist threat in Syria,” in a show of preference for the wait and see policy.
Meanwhile, the US decision to withdraw is still under suspicion and the country has increased their patrols in Manbij in recent days. The US held patrols in Manbij and along the Sajur stream on the border of Jarablus that is under Turkish state and their allied jihadist groups before, and recently they have started patrols in Manbij city center as well. The US increasing aerial and ground traffic in Manbij brings about some doubt as to their intentions.