After a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Moscow, it seems that Russia and Turkey are looking to put their differences aside and seek a resolution to the six-year-long conflict in Syria. In a press conference, Russia’s leader claimed that “The atmosphere [in their meeting] was very constructive” and the two countries are looking to co-operate in Syria. Putin also stated, “The sides called for joining efforts of the international community in the fight against terrorism.”
The relationship between Russia and Turkey has not been a friendly one in recent times. Throughout the Syrian Civil War, Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad and his government, while Turkish forces have given support to anti-Assad groups. Through these conflicting interests, we have seen multiple incidents that suggest these two powers could struggle to work together for peace. In 2015, a Russian military jet was shot down by the Turkish Air Force. In more recent months, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was murdered and Turkish troops were bombed by Russian Jets. However, Putin stated, “I am pleased to say, nobody has expected, but at the level of military authorities, intelligence services, we have a very trustful, very effective dialogue.” This could be the start of a pragmatic approach to a more peaceful outcome in Syria where pragmatism previously has been replaced by bombs and drone strikes.
The positivity from recent meetings between the two countries puts Russia and Turkey at the centre of the Syrian conflict and leads us to believe they are currently Syria’s best hope for conflict resolution. The Turkish president stated, “We believe that all problems in Syria should be resolved,” as he sounded optimistic about ties with Russia and what their relationship could achieve. In December, the two countries made a big step for co-operation in Syria by brokering a relatively successful ceasefire which both the United Nations and America has thus far failed to do. It is hoped that Turkey and Russia will be able to facilitate talks between the Syrian government and their opposition.
Both Russia and Turkey have played a large part in creating violent conflict in the Middle East over the last six years. It is important that the cooperation between these two nations is productive in the search for peace. America has typically displayed strength in the Middle East; however, both Turkey and Russia seem to be making more progress in recent times, as the region looks for stability. Both nations may wish to show their strength and prove that America is not needed in the Middle East, where they have had a strong, violent presence for nearly two decades.
The renewed relationship between Turkey and Russia is hopefully the beginning of the journey towards peace in Syria. However, we must be realistic, as the road to peace will be long and will certainly not be easy. A stable Syria is still a long way away and it is of the utmost importance that all nations involved work towards a resolution for those suffering in the prolonged war.
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