Turkish officials said Wednesday that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to visit Moscow this month for talks on Syria and other issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kurds have already reached out to Russia for help to secure a deal with the Syrian government to fill the vacuum that will be left by the departure of U.S. troops, in the hope of averting a threatened Turkish attack, according to senior Kurdish officials.
On Tuesday, just as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton was leaving Ankara after Erdogan declined to meet him, Russian and Kurdish websites posted videos of Russian military vehicles rumbling through the Syrian.
Aaron Stein, director of Middle East programs at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the patrols served as a reminder that with U.S. policy in disarray and U.S. troops on the way out, “Russia owns all of this now.”
Russia has so far not committed to helping either Turkey or the Kurds. After Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told reporters that Erdogan was scheduling a visit to Moscow this month, the Kremlin said plans are in the works but cautioned that no date has been set.
The Kurds have submitted a proposal to Moscow that would allow the Syrian government to restore its overall sovereignty over the vast area of Syria taken over by the Kurds since 2012, first during the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and then in the war against the Islamic State. In return, the Kurds want the Syrian government to grant them a degree of autonomy, allowing them to continue their experiment in self-governance, Muslim said.
“We have given our road map to the Russians. We are just waiting on a decision,” he said.
Amid conflicting messages from members of the Trump administration about how the troop withdrawal will occur, it seems increasingly clear that Russia, as the only power talking to all the players, is best positioned to mediate a solution, Stein said.