Turkey and Russia continue to strengthen their multidimensional cooperation, especially on Syria.
The consultations of the two countries on the fight against the terrorist organization YPG/PKK have been successful while the efforts for forming the lists of members for a Syrian constitutional committee will be accelerated.
Turkey and Russia’s position on the Syrian civil war began to get closer during the Bashar al-Assad regime’s siege of Aleppo in Dec. 2016.
Accelerating diplomacy with Moscow, Ankara forced the regime to end the blockade and evacuate civilians safely.
In 2016, the Assad regime put eastern Aleppo, where 300,000 civilians were trapped, under siege for four months. The siege prompted the greatest humanitarian crisis in the Syrian civil war, but was ended after a cease-fire agreement led by Turkey was brokered on Dec. 13.
Evacuation of the local population occurred from Dec. 15-22 following a deal between Ankara and Moscow.
Afterward, thousands of civilians from Aleppo settled in the Idlib camps, near the Turkish border which are controlled by the opposition forces.
The cease-fire and evacuation in Aleppo has become a turning point for the normalization of the Turkey-Russia relations since November 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian military jet over airspace violation.
At the end of 2016, Ankara and Moscow decided to expand their cooperation in Aleppo to all of Syria.
Turkey and Russia -- the guarantor states -- have focused on a joint initiative for a political solution to the civil war since January 2017.
- Astana peace process
The Astana peace process -- brokered by Turkey and Russia -- which ensures cease-fire and a de-escalation zone in Idlib, contributed to the revival of Geneva negotiations, which began in June 2012 under the supervision of the UN.
Turkish and Russian officials made immense efforts to involve the UN and the U.S. in the Astana process.
Staffan de Mistura, then-UN special envoy for Syria, and his team attended all Astana meetings.
Following a meeting on Sept. 17, 2018 in the Russian city of Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone -- in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited -- in Syria’s Idlib province.
The efforts for the formation of the Syrian constitutional committee are expected to continue in 2019 with increased contacts between Turkish and Russian officials.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Russian and Iranian counterparts in Geneva on Dec. 18 and announced that they planned to hold the first meeting of a Syrian constitutional commission in January 2019.
During the Syrian peace conference in Sochi, the formation of a committee to develop recommendations to amend the Syrian constitution was agreed upon.
- YPG/PKK terrorist organization in Syria
Information compiled by Anadolu Agency states that the consensus on the fight against the terrorist organizations YPG/PKK was reached by Turkish and Russian officials in a meeting held in Moscow on Dec. 29, 2018 with the participation of the two countries’ foreign, defense ministers and intelligence chiefs.
Both sides have fully agreed that these terrorist organizations are disrupting the balances in the region with U.S. support.
Despite its decision to pull out of Syria, the U.S. -- emphasizing that cooperation with YPG/PKK is for wiping out Daesh in Syria -- has still failed to cooperate on YPG/PKK issues.
- Turkish-Russian partnership and deals
Some of Turkey’s most ambitious projects are carried out with Russian partnership.
Turkey’s decision to make a $2.5-million purchase of two S-400 air defense systems with four batteries from Russia culminated in an agreement signed by both sides on Dec. 29, 2017.
This led to strong opposition from the U.S. which stipulated that Turkey scrap the deal as a precondition to its own sale of Patriot defense systems to Ankara.
Turkey has vehemently rejected Washington’s calls, with Erdogan saying on April 3 that the purchase was a decision for Turkey to make.
Ankara is also working with Moscow on the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to run across the Black Sea.
As Russia’s second largest gas market in Europe after Germany, Turkey bought 52 percent of its natural gas needs from Moscow in 2018.
With the first unit of the pipeline completed, negotiations are ongoing in Europe for the next segment.
The project’s finalization is expected to turn Turkey into an energy hub in the region.
In addition, work is ongoing for the Akkuyu Nuclear Plant, with Russian officials predicting its completion before 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic.
Reporting by Selen Temizer
Writing by Faruk Zorlu