The uncertain future of Türkiye-Syria talks

For a considerable period, Türkiye and Syria have engaged in discussions aimed at reshaping their bilateral relationship into a new framework. Most recently, a diplomatic meeting took place in Moscow in April involving foreign ministers from both countries, along with Russia and Iran. However, since April, the trajectory of these talks has become increasingly uncertain. This uncertainty has been shaped by the complex nature of the Syrian conflict, the divergent priorities of the external actors, the strategically ambiguous behavior of the Bashar Assad regime and the lack of capacity of the state of Syria. Other dynamics exist that make the talks between Türkiye and Syria more difficult to reach the real objectives of the negotiations process.

The uncertain future of Türkiye-Syria talks
Can Turkey Russia and Iran Bring Permanent Security to Syria

Can Turkey, Russia, and Iran Bring Permanent Security to Syria?

Ultimately, the Astana Process reflects the nature of politics today.


The main issue on the table during the Erdoğan-Putin summit was the increased regime and Russian attacks on Idlib and Afrin. These attacks were jeopardizing the terms of the deal that was reached in 2018. Both leaders confirmed their willingness to maintain the existing status quo in Syria and work together to restore security and stability in the war-torn country. Both Moscow and Ankara are more pressured than ever to find a political solution in Syria due to the enduring costs and potential security risks of the Syrian civil war.

It is time to look at Turkey-Russia relations from the perspective of an 'early response to great power competition' rather than the classical balance-of-power approach.

The March 5 agreement between Turkey and Russia put an end to the military confrontation in Idlib, Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, shook hands on that deal to de-escalate what had become serious bilateral tensions. The 2018 Sochi agreement has thus been updated.

Turkey has been the main supporter of the Syrian opposition fighting the Bashar Assad regime. Ankara has also diligently protected innocent Syrian civilians living in the Idlib region. It has stood against the atrocities, the Assad regime attacks and the regime's main backers Russia and Iran. On one hand, Turkey has mobilized its deterrent military power in the region against the regime’s future attacks; on the other hand, Turkish officials and civil institutions initiated a campaign to provide food and shelter for civilians. Western countries have been reluctant to get involved in the humanitarian tragedy and security problem in the region.

Europe, US unable to grasp Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has faced the gravest problems in the region regarding security, economics and refugees. That picture has not changed. At every turn, a new wave of issues knocks on Turkey’s door. That Europe and the U.S. have not taken initiatives required for a political transition in Syria is a major factor in this. Another leading cause is Russia’s desire to solve the crisis through military force. From the outset, Russia has deployed a course of destruction called the 'Grozny model." It is a policy consisting of three stages: besiege, destroy and rule. Russia has implemented this formula in many areas, particularly in Aleppo, which has wreaked extensive destruction and killed thousands of civilians.

Europe US unable to grasp Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey
The Moscow agreement is fragile at best

The Moscow agreement is fragile at best

After a six-hour meeting between leaders and technical committees, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart announced a cease-fire for Syria's Idlib. During the meeting at the Kremlin, the presidents gave short speeches. The whole world followed the process as the decisions could trigger an escalation in violence while intensifying the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria. Turkey and Russia both wanted to end the civil war but were unwilling to concede their positions. For both Turkey and Russia, bilateral relations were at stake as well.


The Idlib crisis reached another turning point after the signing of the Turkish-Russian agreement last week during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow. Reports indicated that the challenging process of negotiations carried on for more than six hours. The end result of the negotiations generated a lot of debates regarding its provisions and the potential roadblocks in its implementation.

Last week’s agreement between Turkey and Russia established a new deconfliction plan and demonstrated that the two countries were united in their commitment to the Astana and Sochi processes. Even more important was their ability to stop the clashes in Idlib and preserve the framework of their bilateral relations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Moscow this week to hold talks on the Idlib crisis. The world closely followed his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. All experts were sure that this would be the tensest meeting between the two leaders since the 2015 jet incident.

For days, both Syrian public opinion and the world have been discussing the question of “What is Turkey doing in Idlib, Syria?” If you are really curious about this question, you must have been born after 2015. Turkey has intervened in northern Syria for both humanitarian and security reasons due to a number of problems, such as nearly 4 million refugees coming to the country during the nine-year war, instability spreading from Syria and dozens of people killed in missile strikes on Turkish soil, which were launched from across the Syrian border.

It is distressing to witness the lack of European concern about the humanitarian disaster in Idlib and how Turkey has been abandoned in its fight for civilian safety

Turkey's sole wish in Idlib is to maintain domestic and regional stability. This is what all involved actors must be aware of first.

The deadline for Bashar Assad’s retreat from Idlib has passed. Turkey remains committed to the Sochi agreement..

The recent escalation of tensions around Idlib which have developed in response to coordinated attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia have put the pledges of the Astana and Sochi peace processes under a heavy strain..

The Syria civil war has been a test for the international community since it began almost nine years ago. The world has failed to respond and stop the bloodshed as the worst humanitarian tragedy since World War II unfolded under its watchful eyes.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described last week's regime attack in Idlib that claimed eight Turkish lives, as a "turning point" in the Syrian civil war. In addition to giving Bashar Assad time to retreat beyond the Turkish military observation posts by the end of the month, Erdoğan pledged that Turkey would push the regime forces away on its own if necessary.

The Syrian civil war has always had great potential to worsen any day. Since May 2019, the Bashar Assad regime has been pummeling the Syrian opposition's last holdout in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Despite supporting opposite sides, Turkey and Russia have maintained dialogue for the last several years in the Syrian crisis. Together with Iran, another Bashar Assad supporter, they initiated the Astana Process. They have taken several significant steps to lessen the level of violence in the country. However, the Assad regime has insistently violated the cease-fire and continued its attacks against the opposition and civilian targets.

Long-standing tension between Turkey and the Bashar Assad regime just turned into a hot conflict. At this rate, everything else will take a backseat to military operations. The critical question is whether Turkey has moved to the "second" stage in Idlib – holding territory, reinforcing observation posts and exercising control around them, and enforcing a safe zone, 30-40 kilometers deep, for Syrian refugees and displaced persons.