According to a Turkish daily, during Iranian Chief of the Staff's recent visit to Turkey the two neighboring countries along with Russia reached a deal to settle problem of Syria’s Idlib province.
The Daily Sabah noted that Tehran, Moscow, Damascus, and Ankara were striving after striking a deal for a joint effort that will meet the relevant sides' interests, amid reports that the US is bracing for a military operation in Idlib.
Sources familiar with the efforts told the Turkish Daily that the countries' military officials achieved an accord to draw a de-escalation zone in the Syrian province. The arrangement to implement the agreement on the ground will also involve the Russian military, sources added.
After visit of Iran’s General Mohamed Bagheri to Ankara, the Russian media told of expected trip of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Turkey “to discuss situation in Idlib”, a visit that apparently indicates Ankara posture revision which gets it closer to Moscow and Tehran.
The recent exchange of visits between the three countries' military officials lays bare the fact that the three countries are reaching common understanding in relation to the Syrian conflict, though since eruption of the crisis Ankara took anti-Damascus standings and wanted the Syrian President Basher al-Assad ousted.
But why are Turkey’s stances moving closer to those of Iran and Russia?
1. Having common enemy
Certainly, what is now strongly bringing Turkey closer to Iran and Russia in relation to Syria is the common threat of terrorism. Fighting a set of terrorist organizations is now becoming an urgent need for the three countries to address.
For instance, only Turkey in 2016 came under 16 major terrorist attacks, hitting a spectrum of large and small cities including Istanbul, Bursa, and Diyarbakir. Meanwhile, Only Istanbul was target of at least 4 assaults last year, heralding a major terror threat that needs to be dealt with.
Iran and Russia also got their shares of terrorist attacks, though not in a Turkish scale. All these terrorist incidents urge a serious coordination of the three nations to build a strong anti-terror deterrence.
2. Syria field developments and Damascus's upper hand gain
On the other side, the Syrian battleground development's influence on the proximity of the Turkish stance to Iran and Russia is inevitable. Since liberation of north Syrian province of Aleppo in late 2016, the tides kept turning in favor of the Syrian government, with many anti-Syrian heads of state, like the Qatari and German officials softening their positions on the central government. They no longer set the precondition of Syria president’s removal from power for the peace talks to go ahead. Turkey, once a staunch anti-Assad party, now comes to terms with the fact that ousting the president is not a feasible precondition.
Other Arab states such as Tunisia and Algeria have expressed interest to resume diplomatic ties with Syria through reopening their embassies there. These retreats all help Damascus and its allies stand on a lofty position after six years of resistance to a multi-partied, foreign-backed campaign of terror.
US desires negotiation with Syrian government
Amid emergence of signs that the three countries are even building a coalition against terrorism in Syria and even the whole region, some American officials revealed Washington's interest in negotiating with President Assad. Lebanon-based Arab-language Al-Akhbar daily recently exposed the US wish to open channels with Syria through Oman. The Lebanese newspaper added that Muscat even exchanged messages between Washington and Damascus. Syria, however, set conditions for any talks, saying that they must be held in Syria and political issues should be covered along with the security concerns.
If confirmed, this fresh American stance is an apparent stepping back from formerly-held anti-Syrian positions.
Russia-Iran-Turkey alliance forms prior to Astana meeting
The back-to-back visits to Ankara of the Russian and Iranian military officials can signal bright prospects for the upcoming peace talks in the Kazakh capital after six years of fierce fighting across the country.
The Russian foreign ministry on Saturday expressed optimism about making sixth round of talks a platform for Syria peace.
“In the course of events,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Astana has become the main venue for the practical efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria by promoting the steady functioning of de-escalation zones”.
Three de-escalation zones in southwest, Eastern Ghouta, and Homs are now in place.
The expected talks, the Russian ministry said, will be meant to facilitate the creation of a fourth zone this time in Idlib, where significant concentrations of Takfiri terrorists, notably Al-Nusra Front's, are operating, according to the statement.
Rise of a new camp involving Tehran, Moscow, and Ankara, beside vividly softened Western stances on Syria feed the optimism about Astana meeting to come out with crisis-resolving results to end a conflict that so far took lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, while no initiative but supporting the Syrian government's combat against terrorists appears viable to restore Syrian and regional stability.