MESOP FOCUS “JUST WORDS” : DON’T BET ON PUTIN ! – Moscow doesn’t want the Kurds to be too strong or too weak: Russian analyst

August 28, 2016 – ARA News – QAMISHLI – Top Russian officials have said that Kurds should still be part of the Syrian talks, despite of the recent rapprochement between Russia and Turkey.

Moscow has recently played a role in ending a 7-days-clashes between the Syrian regime and the Kurds in the northeastern Hasakah city, inviting both to the Russian Khmeimim air base. Furthermore, Russia restored its ties with Turkey and did not strongly oppose the Turkish intervention in Jarabulus after talks on Syria. The Turkish intervention was most likely coordinated by the Turks with Iran, Russia and Syria. While in the past Turkey refrained from directly militarily intervening in Syria, fearing a Russian military response after shooting down a Russian jet in November 2015, this time Turkey had a free hand on its border.

Nevertheless, senior Russian officials, such as the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Ivanovich Churn, have stressed that Kurds should still be included in the talks. “Apparently, peace in the Middle East is impossible without taking into consideration the Kurdish stance. The current illegal Turkish military campaign in northern Syria under the pretext of fighting against terrorism is aimed at the Kurds,” Russian parliament’s Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak was quoted by the Russian media outlet Sputnik last Thursday.

“I’m convinced the Kurds should have a full-fledged representation in that process, should remain an integral part of the Syrian state,” Lavrov said on Saturday after discussing a solution to the Syrian crisis with his American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Speaking to ARA News, Timur Akhmetov, a Research Analyst with a special focus on the Middle East and Turkish politics, said that the Russians do not want the Kurds to be either too strong or too weak. “It seems that Russia has a dilemma: on the one hand, it doesn’t want collide with Turkey again over the Kurds, on the other hand – Russia feels it needs to keep saying the formula “Kurds must also participate in the talks”,” Akhmetov said.

“Those statements are just usual rhetoric; it is always necessary to see if the words fit with the deed. I think now Russia wouldn’t mind that Kurdish positions be a little weakened by Turkey, but not to the extent that would render Kurds ineffective against other opposition groups in Syria. In short, Russia doesn’t want to see Kurds both as too weak and too strong,” he said.

“I think now Kurds have the impression that Russia is giving into Turkish ambitions vis-a-vis the Kurds, so Russia will need now to send the Kurds positive message, signaling that it still wants to cooperate with the Kurds,” Akhmetov told ARA News.

Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert from the Washington Institute For Near East Policy, said that Russia backs Kurdish ambitions to link their enclaves [in northern Syria], despite earlier signs that Russia also backed the Turkish-led Jarabulus operation. “The Syrian regime is obliged to follow Russia. Putin wants to allow the Kurds to open a corridor to Efrin from Manbij. A narrow corridor, protecting Aleppo from rebel attack and easy to close if PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] is not smart with Putin,” Balanche told ARA News. “Turkey knows its limit: 15 km inside Syria no more, after that Russia would shell Turkish troops and its rebels,” he said.