Syria: The Tillerson ploy yields first results

Turkey denies reports Syria will help YPG in Afrin

Turkey says reports Syrian army will aid Kurdish YPG in Afrin are false, adding such a move will be a ‘major disaster’.
Turkey‘s deputy prime minister has dismissed as “false” media reports that Syrian government forces were poised to enter a Kurdish enclave in Syria‘s Afrin.
Bekir Bozdag, however, warned any move by Syrian soldiers to help the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, repel a Turkish offensive in northwestern Syria would be a “major disaster” for the region.

Putin, Erdogan discuss Syrian crisis

Vladimir Putin has held a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan
February 19,2018
MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Syria. Special emphasis was placed on ways of enhancing Astana format cooperation, the Kremlin’s press-service said.
“In discussing the situation in Syria special attention was paid to ways of further enhancing cooperation in the Astana format. The readiness was confirmed for tight coordination of efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran for the sake of achieving effective operation of the de-escalation zones and advancing the political process in line with the agreements achieved by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi,” the Kremlin’s press-service said.

US must immediately leave area it controls in southern Syria — Lavrov

19 Feb, 2018
US troops must immediately shut down their zone of control in southern Syria in the area of Al-Tanf, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested when asked what should be done to help the Syrian peace settlement.
Lavrov was referring to an area on Syria’s border with Jordan and Iraq, which the US declared to be under its protection last year. Among other things, it contains the Rukban refugee camp. The facility is apparently used by radical militants, including members of UN-designated terrorist group best known by its former name Al-Nusra Front, to recover and raid other parts of Syria, Lavrov said at the Valdai Club conference on the Middle East in Moscow. The US is turning a blind eye to such abuses of its protection, he added.

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Is Russia trying to force Turkey to talk to Syria?

February 20. 2018

Following a story run by Syria’s government-controlled Ikhbariya TV on the morning of Feb. 19 that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad could enter the northwestern town of Afrin near Turkish border in the next few hours, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The story was alarming for Ankara, as it also said Damascus was about to cut a deal with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting with Turkey for more than three decades. The Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel forces it backs have been carrying out a campaign for a month against the YPG-held Afrin and its environs, which the PKK calls the “Afrin Canton” in line with its autonomy/independence target.

Erdoğan, Putin agree to continue pursuing cooperation, coordination against terrorism

Erdoğan and Putin discuss recent developments in Syria’s Idlib and Afrin
February 19, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin confirmed their determination to fight against terrorism together in a phone call, a Turkish presidential source said on Monday.
Erdoğan and Putin discussed the process of establishing new observation posts in the Syrian town of Idlib in a phone call on Monday. During peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the three guarantor countries Turkey, Iran and Russia agreed to establish de-escalation zones in Idlib, Syria and in parts of the Aleppo, Latakia, and Hama provinces.

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Complete confusion in Washington. Accusations against Russia, no hint of a proof.

Tillerson’s visit averted a break-up in US-Turkish ties: Senior advisor to Erdoğan

February 19 2018
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit last week to Ankara, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, averted a break in U.S.-Turkey ties, according to a senior advisor to Erdoğan.
“It was an earnest visit, as Tillerson was making every effort he could to try to reach an understanding regarding Turkey’s concerns,” Professor Gülnur Aybet told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Escalation in Syria – How Far Can the Russians be Pushed?

February 16, 2018
Events in Syria have recently clearly taken a turn for the worse and there is an increasing amount of evidence that the Russian task force in Syria is being targeted by a systematic campaign of “harassing attacks”.
First, there was the (relatively successful) drone and mortar attack on the Russian Aerospace base in Khmeimin. Then there was the shooting down of a Russian SU-25 over the city of Maasran in the Idlib province. Now we hear of Russian casualties in the US raid on a Syrian column (along with widely exaggerated claims of “hundreds” of killed Russians).

Turkish Invasion Pits Neocons Against Traditional Imperialists

By Mike Whitney
February 03, 2018
US foreign policy in the Middle East is not merely adrift, it is in a state of severe crisis. Even as Turkish tanks and warplanes continue to pound US allies in northwestern Syria (The Kurds), powerbrokers in the White House and the Pentagon are unable to settle on a way forward. The frantic attempts to placate their NATO ally, Turkey, while trying to assuage the fears of their mostly Kurdish proxy-army (Syrian Democratic Forces) has further underscored the dismal absence of a coherent policy that would not only address the rapidly-changing battlespace  but also deal with the prospect that a critical regional ally (Turkey) might seek strategic objectives that are directly at odds with those of Washington.  The present disaster that is unfolding in the Afrin canton in Syria’s northwest corner could have been avoided had the Trump administration abstained from announcing that it planned a permanent military presence in east Syria, which implied its tacit support for an independent Kurdish state. This, in fact, was the trigger for the current crisis, the provocation that set the dominoes in motion.

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Washington Widens the War in Syria by Provoking Turkey

The Trump administration has drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security. Washington’s gaffe has pitted one NATO ally against the other while undermining hopes for a speedy end to the seven year-long war.
Here’s what’s going on: On January 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the creation of a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria. Two days later, January 20, the Turkish Army launched a ground and air offensive against Kurdish troops in the Afrin canton in Northwest Syria.