Tensions between Turkey and Russia are mounting over the situation in Idlib, Syria. However, the worsening ties between the two nations is not going to impact Ankara’s plans to deploy its Russian-made S-400 air defence systems, which the United States had been pushing for.
A senior American official on the condition of anonymity told Reuters – Turkish authorities did not pay heed to Washington, despite the worsening relations with Russia and the continuing threat of US sanctions over the purchase of the S-400 air defence systems.
The fighting in the northwestern province of Syria led to a diplomatic tussle between Turkey and Russia, as Moscow supports the Syrian offensive while Turkey wants Bashar al-Assad to stop all operations in the Greater Idlib region (Idlib and Hama provinces, parts of the provinces Aleppo and Latakia).
As a result of the impending Russian-Turkish disagreement, the United States got a rare opportunity to get Ankara to abandon the S-400 air defence system deal. However, the efforts of American diplomats are going down the drain, the source told Reuters.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about US support for Turkey. US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey, who was in Ankara this week tried woo Ankara by calling the Turkish soldiers killed in Syria as “martyrs.”
According to a British agency source who participated in recent US-Turkish consultations, Russia’s “destructive role” infuriated the Turkish authorities, but did not lead to a change in their policies regarding the S-400. “I did not see them rethinking their position on the S-400. But we expect that Turkey’s course on this issue will (nevertheless) be revised, ”he said.
As EurAsian Times reported earlier, on February 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Discussion continued on various aspects on the settlement of the Syrian crisis, primarily in the context of the aggravation of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, the Kremlin’s press service said.
“We discussed the situation in Idlib, in particular, the consequences of the actions of the Turkish military, the forces of the regime of Assad and Russia. A decision was made to hold meetings between the Turkish and Russian military in Turkey, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and intelligence of the two countries in Moscow. Meetings will be planned in the near future, ”the Turkish leader said after a telephone conversation.
The Russian delegation, who came to Ankara to discuss the possible end to the offensive by the Syrian government forces in Idlib province, left Turkey earlier this week without reaching an agreement.
Representatives of Russia arrived in Ankara on February 8, a few days after eight Turkish soldiers were killed by the Syrian government forces. Last Monday, when representatives of Turkey and Russia were negotiating in Ankara, a second incident occurred in Idlib, which killed another five Turkish soldiers.
Russian experts criticized Turkish politicians who were using the tragic events in the Idlib to provoke sentiments against Moscow. Such statements do not contribute to a settlement in Syria, said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“We were shocked by the statements of the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahceli on February 11 at the meeting of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Parliament),” the Russian Foreign Ministry noted. “Bahceli tried to hold Russia and the Syrian government responsible for the deaths of Turkish troops in Syria, and called on his country’s leadership to radically revise Russian-Turkish relations.”
Given the tense situation in northwestern Syria, one should show restraint and all the more refrain from provocative remarks, which by no means contribute to a constructive dialogue between two countries on the issues of the Syrian settlement, the ministry said. “We consider it unacceptable to use the tragic events in an attempt to“ score points ”in an internal political debate,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added.
Recall, the Ministry of Defense of Turkey on July 25, 2019, announced the completion of the first stage of the supply of S-400 air defence system components to the country. As part of the first phase of the implementation of the contract between Russia and Turkey, 30 aircraft landed at the Myurt airbase near Ankara.
The first deliveries of S-400 to Turkey began on July 12. The second stage of deliveries of Russian air defence systems to Turkish partners started on August 27 and ended on September 14. S-400s are expected to be fully deployed in Turkey by April 2020.