Xinhua — Türkiye’s plans for another military operation in northern Syria and a possible grain corridor from Ukrainian ports across the Black Sea are high on the agenda of an upcoming meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Iran, experts said.
A trilateral summit scheduled for July 19 in Iran’s capital Tehran will bring together Erdogan, Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as the leaders of the guarantor countries of the Astana Process which was initiated in 2017 for peace in Syria.
The potential new Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria, particularly Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas, against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) may again draw criticism from Moscow which is against any military operation by the Turkish army in Syria, Serkan Demirtas, a Turkish foreign policy analyst, told Xinhua.
However, the conflict with Ukraine seems to have diverted much of Russia’s attention away from Syria, paving the way for Iran and Türkiye to expand their influence in the region, Demirtas said.
The Turkish army launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019, and Operation Spring Shield in 2020 in northern Syria in order to create a YPG-free zone along its border within the neighboring country.
Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU, has been rebelling against the Turkish government for over 30 years, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.
The vital Tehran summit will also see the first in-person meeting between Erdogan and Putin since the Ukrainian crisis broke out in late February, Demirtas noted.
According to the Turkish analyst, Erdogan has two Ukraine-related objectives for the meeting: first and foremost, to create a grain corridor from Ukrainian ports to prevent a global food crisis, and then to convince Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet in Türkiye to end the conflict.
“Erdogan will also be the first NATO country leader to meet Putin” since the Ukrainian crisis, Demirtas said.
At a meeting of military delegations in Istanbul on Wednesday, Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations reached a consensus on some issues regarding grain exports from Ukraine, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst on Russian-Turkish relations, said he expects further developments on the grain exports issue after the upcoming meeting between Erdogan and Putin in Tehran.
Noting increased trade cooperation between Moscow and Ankara since the crisis, Has said Türkiye has not imposed sanctions on Russia despite international pressure.
“Russia’s need for Türkiye in the economic and commercial field has increased a lot. As Western companies leave the Russian market, they are replaced by Turkish companies. Türkiye’s strategic importance has increased in Russia’s foreign economic relations,” he explained.
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