Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan attend a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4GAUT
Talks have been ongoing for several days between Turkish and Russian diplomats at the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow. However, earlier on today, Erdogan announced that no compromise had been reached as yet and that the time for a Turkish military offensive on Syria was approaching.
Both Turkey and Moscow have been pushing forward extreme positions during the negotiations. Moscow has allegedly submitted a map showing the whole of Idlib under Syrian control with Turkey only remaining in control of a thin sliver of land alongside its own border… (See map 1).
Ankara for its part, wants the Syrian Army to retreat beyond Idlib, back to its initial starting position (The so-called Sochi position). Obviously, Damascus is not going to agree to this: The rebel/jihadi front is crumbling and the SAA advances daily, finally, after weeks and months of fighting. The Syrian forces and its allies did not control any part of Idlib back in November 2019. They now control well over 50% of the province.
Damascus, for its parts, has stated a minimum objective: Retake control of both the Damascus-Aleppo M-5 Highway and the Latakia-Aleppo M-4 Highway. This could be a base for a compromise between all parties: Short term, the SAA would renounce reconquering Idlib city and Turkey and its proxies would retain nominal control of roughly 1/3 of the province (See map 2).
Both the SAA and the Turkish army are obviously working on a plan B. Both sides have been pouring reinforcements in the region. Map 3 shows that the SAA could burst out of Aleppo and push west toward the Turkish border, sealing the main supply road to Idlib. This would obviously be a casus beli for Ankara.
Erdogan has said the Turkish offensive would start before the end of February. The SAA keeps on pushing forward.