Russia and Turkey to 'coordinate' Syria policy Political and military events
Russia and Turkey will “coordinate” their policies over Syria, the countries' foreign ministers said on Friday, in a major diplomatic realignment that could be a major blow for the Western goal of ousting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The announcement came after the United States acceded to long-standing Russian policies by offering a military alliance with Moscow against jihadist groups in Syria, another realignment towards Vladimir Putin's stated goals in the country.
"We can talk with Russia on every issue, positive or negative, because the dialogue that had been cut has restarted and our relations have begun returning to old days," Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said both sides wanted to "set the right tone for the normalisation of relations" at the meeting in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Mr Lavrov added that the two sides will also resume counter-terrorist co-operation following the implication of Russian-born terrorists in a suicide attack on Istanbul airport on Tuesday.
Police have said Russian, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek citizens were involved in the attack, which killed 44 people. The mastermind has been named as Ahmad Chatayev, a veteran of the second Chechen war who Russian security forces believe has a senior position inside the Islamic State terror group.
Friday's talks were the first high-level Russia-Turkish talks since Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, this week pledged to renew trade ties and counter-terrorism cooperation following a nine-month diplomatic crisis.
Relations between Russia and Turkey were shattered in November last year when a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber carrying out missions over Syria, leading to the deaths of two Russian servicemen.
Russia responded with a range of stinging economic sanctions, including barring charter flights to Turkey and placing import bans on Turkish fruit and vegetables. Those restrictions are expected to be lifted in the next few weeks.
The countries have long backed opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, with Turkey openly backing groups fighting against Russian ally Bashar al-Assad.
However, some have suggested Ankara’s fear of an autonomous Kurdish statelet emerging in northern Syria may have trumped antipathy towards Mr Assad.
“Assad is, at the end of the day, a killer. He is torturing his own people. We're not going to change our stance on that," a senior official from the ruling AKP party told Reuters this week. "But he does not support Kurdish autonomy. We may not like each other, but on that we're backing the same policy.”
However, a government official told the Telegraph that there would be “no changes” in Turkey’s Syria policy.
“We believe closer cooperation between Turkey and Russia could help address the situation in Syria,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He added that there were no “concrete plans” for cooperation yet.
Kurdish forces including the YPG have enjoyed military and political backing from both the United States and Russia in their fight against Isil.
Representatives from Rojava, the Kurdish name for the area in northern Syria currently controlled by Kurdish forces, opened an office in Moscow in February.
While Russia has not explicitly shifted its position on the Syrian Kurds, there are hints that a thaw with Moscow could be bad news for the YPG.
"Essentially, we have no disagreements over who to consider as terrorists and who not to consider as terrorists," Mr Lavrov said.
On Thursday the Telegraph learnt that the United States has proposed a military alliance with Russia to carry out joint missions against jihadist groups.
Such an alliance has been a long-stated goal for Moscow. The United States has previously resisted calls for military cooperation with Russia, accusing Moscow of bombing moderate Western-backed groups rather than concentrating on Isil.
The Kremlin declined to comment on the reported offer of an alliance on Friday.