Turkey is following a strategic balancing act over Syria following a U.S.-led attack on suspected chemical weapons facilities, Thomas Siebert said in the Arab Weekly.
Turkey is keen for political tensions between Washington and Moscow to reduce, otherwise it will be forced to choose sides in the conflict. Erdogan has already sided with the United States over the military strike, calling it “an appropriate response”.
Erdogan has grown closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin as relations with the West deteriorated over Turkey’s human rights record and his cooperation with Russia in Syria. Erdogan has met with Putin about a dozen times since 2016, far more frequently than any Western leader.
Ankara is not seeking to replace its ties to the West with an alliance with Russia, but is rather aiming to forge its own third way in what Erdogan’s critics call a “neo-Ottoman” plan, Seibert said.
Erdogan is now directing accusations against both Russia and the United States as he seeks to forge a regional role for Turkey. “Those who support the regime of murderer Assad are making a mistake. Those who support the PYD terror group are also making a mistake,” Erdogan said, in reference to a Kurdish group allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).
The close partnership with Moscow could come at a price for Turkey, said Gonul Tol, director of the Turkey programme at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Seibert said.
“The recent statements from Russia and Iran calling on Turkey to hand over Afrin to the regime should be a reminder to Ankara of the risks of putting all its eggs in the Russian basket,” she wrote in an analysis for the institute.
Turkey invaded the Afrin region of Syria in January to battle the People’s Protection Units (PYD), taking its main city in March.