Russia ‘filling the gap’ left by retreating US under Putin-Erdogan deal on Syria

Russia ‘filling the gap’ left by retreating US under Putin-Erdogan deal on Syria With the US disentangling itself from Syria and effectively leaving Kurds at the mercy of Ankara, Moscow has filled the gap, cementing its position in the region with a ‘historic’ deal, analysts told RT.

“The Sochi agreement has cemented the Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria, also effectively reducing the American influence in the country,” political analyst Ali Demidras said, referring to the deal struck between Moscow and Ankara on Tuesday after marathon negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia.

The deal is aimed at ensuring the territorial integrity of Syria and helping Damascus to regain control over towns and cities in the northeast. Turkish-Russian patrols along the border have also been envisaged. Arguably, the cornerstone of the deal is that Turkey pledged to continue its ‘Peace Spring’ offensive in a limited area – up to 32km inside Syrian territory, and not to expand the operation further.

While the situation on the ground is still volatile, and there’s always a danger of captured ISIS fighters exploiting the “mess” and breaking free, the meeting was an important breakthrough, Kourosh Shamlou, an attorney and Middle East specialist, told RT, adding that it showcased Russia’s new, more prominent role in Syria.

It is a successful meeting. More important for Vladimir Putin, because Russia is now filling up the gap left by the US. The US is now pulling out all its forces and Russia is coming in.

The memorandum has been hailed as a success, while the US-Turkey deal agreed on Thursday that paved the way for a fragile 120-hour ceasefire barely got a mention during the Sochi talks.

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Yusuf Erim, political analyst at TRT World, told RT he believes that without the subsequent Russia-Turkey deal, the one between Washington and Ankara was likely to be born dead:

“Turkey was able to cement the diplomatic gains they made at the table with the US by having them reflected onto the field by dealing with the Russians, because while in reality the US presence is waning… so any deal with the Americans to have meaningful consequences on the field needs to be reaffirmed by the Russian President”.

Calling the deal agreed by Putin and Erdogan a “win-win” for every interested party, Erim noted that Washington, although sidelined, should also be pleased with the outcome.

“I think the US is happy with this deal, because this deal could quite possibly save the deal which the US made with Erdogan less than a week ago in Ankara, because the deal was fragile.”

Erim said he believes that once the deal comes into effect and Syria, Russia and Turkey begin patrolling the borders, there will not be “any room to breathe” for either ISIS militants or the Kurdish militias that Ankara views as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“Some level of cooperation must have taken place between Washington and Moscow in the course of preparation for the Erdogan-Putin deal”, says Ruslan Mamedov, a Middle East analyst from the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow-based think-tank. “The withdrawal of US forces and the deployment of Russian military police and Syrian servicemen to the territory left by Americans definitely required coordination,” he remarked, but added it is “interesting that the US chose to ‘pass on’ the area to Russia and not its NATO ally Turkey.”“This can probably be explained by their expectations that Russia would bring Kurds and Damascus to some kind of agreement,” Mamedov said.

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