Turkey to dispatch high-level team to Russia for Syria talks
The Turkish government will send a high-level team to Russia on Dec. 29 to discuss and coordinate the aftereffects of the United States’ withdrawal from Syria, running in parallel with Ankara-Washington contacts to the same end, a senior ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) official has said.
The team will include Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and presidential advisor İbrahim Kalın.
“The delegation will travel to Russia on Saturday. It will hold talks on Syria. In line with the results of these talks, a phone conversation [between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin] may be held. Another program for a face-to-face meeting with Putin will also be planned,” AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik told reporters late Dec. 26.
At a press conference on Dec. 25, Çavuşoğlu spoke about Ankara’s intention to get in coordination with Russia upon instructions by Erdoğan after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly decided to pull out all U.S. troops from Syria.
Turkey has expressed its concerns on the penetration of what it sees as terrorist groups, like the YPG and ISIL, into areas to be evacuated by the American troops. It has also reiterated its determination in eliminating the YPG through military operations in eastern Syria although it said it delayed a planned strike due to the withdrawal decision of the U.S.
One of the top issues the Turkish delegation will discuss with their counterparts in Russia will be on who will control the areas to be left by the U.S. The YPG, under the SDF umbrella, currently has control of the entire east of Syria, one third of the war-torn country.
Russia said these areas need to be controlled by the Syrian regime.
“An essential question arises: Who will inherit control over the territories vacated by the Americans? Obviously, that should be the Syrian government, in accordance with international law and considering the path that Syria and the Syrian people have travelled down,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a press conference in Moscow.
“We closely coordinate our views and the implementation of a concrete policy in Syria with our Turkish colleagues,” Zakharova added.
Trump’s advisor set to arrive in Ankara
In the meantime, Turkey and the U.S. are intensifying dialogue for a smooth and coordinated withdrawal of the American troops from Syria.
A military delegation is expected to be in Turkey in the coming days, while Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton will be in the Turkish capital after the New Year. Turkey-U.S. working groups will meet in Washington D.C. on Jan. 8 in which all aspects of bilateral ties as well as Syria will be on the table.