Turkey, Russia look to strengthen military and security ties in Syria

Turkey, Russia look to strengthen military and security ties in Syria
A three-way summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran looks set to take place in Istanbul, according to Turkish presidential sources, as Putin and Erdogan discuss cooperation in Syria.
2 min read
08 February, 2018
Moscow has spearheaded the talks in Astana over the last year [AFP]

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan seek to strengthen ties and improve coordination between the two countries' military and security services in Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement on Thursday.

In a telephone conversation, Putin and Erdogan discussed the potential for new contacts between Russia, Turkey and Iran on Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a possible summit meeting between the leaders of the three countries was under consideration, although no date had been agreed yet.

Meanwhile a Turkish presidential source said on Wednesday that Turkey and Russia agreed the next three-way summit with Iran will be held in Istanbul to discuss the Syrian conflict, now entering its seventh year.

The source added the two leaders agreed to hasten the establishment of military observation posts in Syria's Idlib region, as well as discussing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

Moscow has spearheaded the talks in Kazakh capital Astana over the last year as it tries to turn its game-changing military intervention into a negotiated settlement.

Russian president Vladimir Putin hosted Turkish and Iranian talks in November - the first such three-way summit between the trio.

The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran.

Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow's military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. 

Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad's departure in a conflict that has left more than 400,000 dead.

Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria. The two countries have since cooperated closely on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.