Turkey and Russia seek joint defense mechanism, see eye-to-eye on Syria ceasefire

By Rudaw – 10 August 2016 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Turkey and Russia both agree on the need to implement a durable ceasefire in Syria and devise a political solution to bring an end to the war. Both countries have also agreed to establish a mechanism consisting of diplomats, military officials and intelligence members from both countries, Russian and Turkish officials have announced.

“In the past, we had separate mechanisms on Syria. Now, we are bringing intelligence, Foreign Ministry and military mechanisms together,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news on Wednesday.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to do so in their Tuesday meeting in the city of St. Petersburg, Cavusoglu said.

“The officials will go to St. Petersburg tonight [Wednesday],” Cavusoglu added, “Our delegation will consist of foreign ministry, Turkish Armed Forces, along with our intelligence chief.”

Cavusoglu said that Ankara was not satisfied with the outcome of its cooperation with NATO and therefore it could look for new partners.“Turkey wanted to cooperate with NATO members up to this point,” the minister said. “But the results we got did not satisfy us. Therefore, it is natural to look for other options. But we don’t see this as a move against NATO.”

Among that delegation, who will meet with their Russian counterparts is the chief of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Hakan Fidan. Cavusoglu also said that Moscow holds similar views to Ankara on how to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, indicating that there is room to work together to bring about an agreeable solution to that ongoing war. Erdogan’s visit to Russia was his first abroad since the failed July coup attempt, as well as his first meeting with Putin since relations between both sides became badly strained following Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian warplane over its frontier with Syria last November. Ties are now being patched up after Erdogan apologized for that incident.

“Some of the pilots, who were involved in the downed Russian jet incident, are remanded in custody right now,” Erdogan told Putin, referring to the pilots who shot down that Russian warplane.“This is because of the allegation of being a member of the Fethullah Terrorist Organization, not because they were involved in the incident. The judiciary will look into the case in every aspect and evaluate,” Erdogan added.

The Turkish president blames the movement led by the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the coup attempt. Speculation has abound that Washington’s failure to extradite Gulen to Turkey will lead to Ankara pivoting closer to Russia.

During his Tuesday meeting with Putin Erdogan reportedly called the president his “dear friend.”  He also said Putin’s support for Erdogan’s government during the coup attempt last month “gladdened me, my colleagues and our people.”