The St. Petersburg summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched the first step in cooperation between the two countries on resolving the Syrian conflict. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu announced that a tripartite mechanism will be created, comprising representatives from each of the three countries’ intelligence agencies, foreign ministries, and military, as part of an effort to put all these functions under one roof. The two parties will hold their first meeting in St. Petersburg on Aug. 11. Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan and representatives from the Foreign Ministry and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) already left today for St. Petersburg.
“The first concrete step [between Turkey and Russia]: Previously, there were different mechanisms between us on Syria, between militaries, foreign ministries and intelligence services. Now, we [will] establish a threefold mechanism,” Foreign Minister Çavusoglu told state-run Anadolu Agency Wednesday.
Also, a direct line of communications has been set up between the Turkish and Russian chiefs of general staffs. “We have agreed to be in close contact in order to avoid such incidents,” said President Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, referring to Turkey’s fighters shooting down a Russian Su-24 over Syria in November. “In this frame, our chief of general staff and the Russian chief of general staff have reestablished a direct line. They are in talks on this,” said Kalin, speaking to the private broadcaster AHaber on Aug. 10, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
Cavusoglu said that although Turkey and Russia had different views on Syria, they were on the same page regarding the declaration of a ceasefire, providing humanitarian aid, and finding a political solution. He said Turkey did not approve of the siege of Aleppo, but had agreed to “inform their Russian counterparts about the locations of civilians and moderate opposition groups and will ask to first get focused on the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria,” reported Hurriyet.
Cavusoglu said ties with Russia should not affect Turkey’s ties to the West, but did note that Turkey has been facing political obstacles from the EU in the last 15 years: “If the West loses Turkey one day, it will not be because of Turkey’s good ties with Russia, China, Central Asian or Islamic countries but because of its mistakes,” Hurriyet quoted him saying.
When asked about the possibility of a Turkey-Russia- Azerbaijan trilateral summit, suggested by Baku when he was there on July 15, Cavusoglu said, “During our meeting in Baku, Azerbaijani officials said that a trilateral summit was established between Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. I told them there can also be trilateral summit with Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.” Cavusoglu said that Erdogan had suggested such a trilateral summit to Putin their own summit in St. Petersburg, to which Putin gave a positive response, reported the state-run Anadolu Agency.
“Lots of subjects can be brought up during that meeting. Unfortunately there is this Karabakh issue and occupied lands of Azerbaijan,” Cavusoglu stated. “We have made lots of efforts to resolve the issue. Russia made some attempts as well. We are right now considering Russia’s suggestions, which suits our suggestions to Armenia.” Cavusoglu said Turkey will do its part, because “both our Russian and Azerbaijani friends want us to contribute to the subject.”
He was referring to the conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh region inside Azerbaijan, which broke away from Azerbaijan and wants to unite with Armenia. Resolving the conflict would greatly help stabilize the Caucasus and allow for deepening Eurasian economic cooperation over an area extending from China through to Turkey and Russia. Azerbaijan and Armenia are both members of the Commonwealth of Independent States of former Soviet republics.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan reached an agreement-in-principle following talks in late June in St. Petersburg.