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Tuesday, 28 June 2022
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Has Erdogan returned empty-handed from Sochi?
Zara saleh
A few days before Sochi's Summit between Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan on September 29, the Turkish President left New York with disappointment. During the UN General Assembly meetings, the Turkish President failed to grant a one-on-one meeting with the US President Biden due to US-Turkey tensions after Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia that led to kicking Turkey out of the F-35 program. Whereas Turkey has always been accused the US of supporting the Kurds in northern Syria. Such disappointed relations have been described, later on by Erdogan as he said: "had not gotten off to a good start".

The frustrating return from New York encouraged Erdogan to seek a counterbalancing alliance with Moscow as a message against the US. Simultaneously with that, the Russian media has been criticised the Turkey-Ukraine military ties and as Turkey still does not recognize Crimea that been annexed by Moscow in 2014. Added to that, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, even before the Sochi Summit, has accused Turkey of not implementing the agreement regarding separating the terrorist groups in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Comparing to the previous summits, the current one between Putin and Erdogan behind closed doors took only less than three hours without holding a media press conference as usual. Even both presidents haven't been talking about the outcomes of the summit except for some general issues.

Later on, it has been clear that according to Russian media, there wasn't a new deal regarding the situation in Syria. Putin in his meeting with Erdogan has demanded Turkey to implement March 2020’s agreement in Idlib and to unlock the M4 as well as a part of the agreement without pushing the Kurdish forces to withdraw from Tel Rifaat and Manbij north Syria. That means the Turkish President was in a weak position during his meeting with Russian President Putin and it could be understood as a result of Washington-Moscow's secret agreement regarding the political solution in Syria. Disappointed with his relationship with Biden after returning back from his journey, and without any promise from Putin to support to push the Kurdish forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), from the Turkish border areas, the Turkish President has called the US to leave the Syrian territories and people. Erdogan in his meeting with the journalists has again raised the tensions with the US and he directly accused Biden's administration official of relations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). He accused the US National Security Council coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk of close ties with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria which is considered as a PKK- branch in north Syria according to Turkish officials. He added, "McGurk was working hand-in-hand with terror groups in the region".

To ensure its significant role in Syria as the main actor, Russian planes with the Syrian regime forces began to bombard the de-escalation zones in Idlib after a few days of the Putin-Erdogan Summit. Such a clear and direct message by Moscow to Ankara could understand how the Turkish President’s last visit to Sochi and New York was, and it is obvious that Erdogan has returned empty-handed from his journey.

by: Zara Saleh

Zara Saleh