Spotlight: U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria create no split between Moscow and Ankara: analysts

Source: Xinhua| 2018-04-20 21:48:55|Editor: pengying
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ISTANBUL, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's support for recent U.S.-led missile strikes on Syrian government military sites would not prevent Ankara from continuing its cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria, analysts said, amid U.S. efforts to win over Ankara.

"Turkish support in this case is a one-shot affair and does not signal real change in its general Syrian policy," Faruk Logoglu, a former senior diplomat, told Xinhua.

The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of missile strikes against the Syrian government last weekend, accusing it, without convincing evidence so far, of having used poison gas against civilians earlier this month.

Ankara immediately expressed support for the strikes, which both Moscow and Tehran, staunch allies of Damascus in Syria's seven-year-old conflict, strongly condemned, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that Damascus should also be punished for using conventional weapons against its people.

The different takes of Ankara, Moscow and Tehran on the missile attack do not amount to a game changer, said Logoglu.

"The Turkish-Russian-Iranian cooperation would probably continue as usual, barring unexpected new developments," he added.

Turkey joined efforts with the U.S. earlier in the Syrian war to topple the government headed by President Bashar al-Assad, but then changed partners in the summer of 2016 when it started the process of rapprochement with Russia.

Ankara, Moscow and Tehran struck a deal last year in the Kazakh capital of Astana to seek a political settlement for the Syrian conflict. Most recently, the leaders of the three countries met in Ankara at the beginning of April for a new round of talks over Syria.

Rendering the Ankara meeting less influential is one of the main goals of the missile attack, Celalettin Yavuz, a security and foreign policy analyst, told Xinhua.

Like its NATO allies, Ankara held the Syrian government responsible for the alleged chemical attack in then rebels-held Douma area near Damascus. In response, Moscow showed, though moderately, its dissatisfaction with Ankara's attitude.

On April 9, two days after the dubious chemical attack against civilians, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ankara should hand over Syria's Afrin region, captured recently by the Turkish army, to Damascus.

"I don't think Turkey's relations with Russia would be harmed," said Yavuz, who teaches at Istanbul Ayvansaray University.

Both sides would realize that keeping good ties is important for Syria's future and their own interests, he explained.

"It's the economic ties that bring Ankara and Moscow together in the first place. Besides, Russia has now close ties with a NATO member," he said.

With Moscow's tacit consent, the Turkish military seized Afrin last month following a two-month campaign against the Kurdish militia there which is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin held talks on the Syrian crisis in Ankara with Erdogan's top advisor Ibrahim Kalin and Turkish Foreign Ministry officials.

The visit by the two Russian officials came two days after French President Emmanuel Macron said the missile strike had succeeded in causing a split between Ankara and Moscow.

Both Ankara and Moscow admitted that they had some differences of opinion on the Syrian conflict, but denied any damage to bilateral ties.

Ankara insists that Assad, whom it calls a murderer, should have no place in the future of Syria.

Washington has been rather concerned about the growing Turkish-Russian rapprochement and Ankara's ties with Eurasian powers in recent years.

Several days after it accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, the U.S. revealed that it was considering a review of its Syrian policy so as to mend ties with Ankara, damaged mainly due to Washington's military support for Syrian Kurdish militia.

On April 12, Turkish media quoted an unnamed high-level U.S. official as saying that "the U.S. wants to find a way of eliminating Turkey's security concerns in Syria."

The official also reportedly said the leaders of the two countries wanted very much to restore old good ties which the allies had in the past, while Erdogan responded positively the same day by saying Turkey would never think of pointing a gun at the soldiers of its allies.

In contrast, top Turkish officials stated not long ago that all those who stand by terror groups in Syria would be targeted by Turkish troops, as Anakra had vowed to move eastward following the Afrin campaign to drive the Kurdish militia out of the northern Syrian town of Manbij, where the U.S. has a military presence.

Turkey would neither give up seeing the U.S. as an ally nor stop cooperating with Russia and Iran, Erdogan stated.

"Turkey is not with or against anybody unconditionally in Syria," he noted.