Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on 27 August will see him and his Russian counterpart hashing out the details of the Syrian end game.
The kinetic (military) phase of the War on Syria is rapidly drawing to a close and being replaced by a potentially much more complex non-kinetic (political) phase of the conflict as evidenced by recent events pertaining to the the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) anti-terrorist operation in Idlib and the upcoming plans to finally form a long-awaited constitutional committee for reforming the country’s founding document. All of these developments concern core interests of Turkey and Russia, especially since the SAA’s liberation offensive succeeded in encircling a Turkish military outpost, so it’s understandable why President Erdogan is rushing to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart to hash out the details of the Syrian end game.
There has been speculation swirling in the media that the Idlib operation was born out of a secret Russian-Turkish pact whereby Ankara would allow the SAA to liberate part or possibly even all of Idlib in exchange for Moscow agreeing to allow Turkish forces to establish a so-called buffer zone in the northeastern Kurdish-controlled part of the country in coordination with the US. It’s certainly conceivable that something of the sort is in effect owing to the rapid gains that the SAA made, which would have been much more difficult to achieve had it not been for a political decision by the Turkish leadership to not directly resist their advances. After all, if it was this comparatively “easy” all along, Idlib would have been liberated long ago.
This suggests that some kind of agreement was probably reached with Russia behind closed doors, but also that the SAA might have even gone a bit further than either of them expected after it encircled the Turkish military outpost, something that maybe even Moscow was surprised to see happen. It should be stated that while Russia and Syria are close military partners, the former doesn’t “control” the latter, and palpable disagreements have arisen between them from time to time. The Turkish military outpost in Idlib was established as part of the Astana peace process’ so-called “de-escalation zones”, which Damascus officially said that it supported at the time (irrespective of whether this was a sincere statement or done under duress).