One country seems unhappy with the Turkish-Russian deal
There is no time to enjoy the brief relief brought by the news of the deal between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Sept. 16 after weeks long of escalating tensions over the Syrian town of Idlib.
Yesterday, on Sept. 18, the Russian Defense Ministry announced one of its Il-20 type turboprop planes with 15 troops on board had disappeared off the radar right after four Israeli F-16 jets hitting Syrian facilities near Latakia, where the Russian Hmeimim Air Base is also located.
Shortly after, Russians said the plane may have been shot down by missiles fired from a French frigate off of the Syrian coast and protested France.
That was strange because the French had hit chemical weapons facilities of Syria once before but that was a combined and coordinated attack with the United States and the United Kingdom. France was a part of four-party talks in Istanbul on Sept. 14 together with Russia, Germany and Turkey as the host and discussed not only the Idlib situation but the future of Syria as well. Nevertheless, France said it has nothing to do with the incident.
Then came another statement from Moscow. The Defense Ministry said the Syrian air defense had shot down the Russian plane but it was Israel, which was responsible for that. According to Russia, the Israeli plane had fired their missiles as they were flying over the French warship, so the traces were misread to have been fired from the ship. At the same time, the Israeli jets were flying close to the Russian plane and pushing it toward Syria’s air defense zone to activate Syria’s radars against approaching Israeli planes.
The Russians implied the Israelis used the French ship and the Russian plane as camouflage and a decoy to carry out the attacks; they had deceived the Russian-made Syrian air defense. The Israelis had warned Russians about the attack only one minute prior and that was not enough time to warn the turboprop Russian plane and change its flight route.
The Israeli military expressed sorrow for the deaths of Russian aircrew, but denied responsibility and blamed the Syrian regime. Moscow said it holds the right to retaliate, but an analysis in the Jerusalem Post yesterday after the incident said it was similar to Russian threats in similar incidents before but nothing had happened.
The timing of the incident was interesting as well. It happened when almost all parties involved, from the U.S. to Iran and even Syria welcomed the Putin-Erdoğan deal, which suggested the formation of a demilitarized zone between the Syrian government and opposition forces by Oct. 15, which will hopefully give Turkey and other parties involved more time to “separate terrorists from civilians” and from the armed Syrian opposition from Daesh and al-Qaeda affiliated ones as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has highlighted.
It seems all parties involved are happy, at least on the official line of the de-escalation of tension around Idlib and generally in Syria, except for those who might have an interest in a divided, exhausted and weak Syria and thus would like the war to keep going.