Key Takeaway: Growing Turkish-Russian military cooperation in Syria is a dangerous sign of a wider shift to a closer strategic relationship between Turkey and Russia. Russia gave Turkey permission to fly air sorties into Northern Syria as part of an agreement for joint military patrols along the frontlines in Greater Idlib Province. The Turkish Armed Forces began joint frontline patrols with pro-regime forces on March 8 with accompanying overflights by the Turkish Air Force. The Turkish-Russian agreement in Idlib Province demonstrates that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is failing in his attempts to spoil the de-escalation zone in Northern Syria brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in 2017. Turkey will likely soon begin independent joint patrols with the Russian Armed Forces. Turkey and Russia began joint patrols of a separate area near Tel Rifaat north of Aleppo City on February 14. Turkey’s deepening relationship with Russia in Syria decreases the likelihood that the U.S. will reach a negotiated agreement with Turkey over the status of Eastern Syria. Russia intends to use its engagement with Turkey in Western Syria to set conditions to cooperate with Turkey against the U.S.-Led Coalition and its partnered Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Eastern Syria. ISW is closely following the evolving situation in Idlib Province and will provide further updates as necessary.
The graphic below depicts the approximate route of the recent Turkish patrol based on open sources.
By Elizabeth Teoman with the ISW Syria Team
View the enlarged map here.