Erdogan at the Istanbul seminar on Tuesday, 29th November, during which he declared his aim in Syria was to remove Assad. The seminar ran for two days, at the Istanbul Pullman, ending on the 30th. On the 29th it was opened by Hameed Al-Ahmar, a Yemeni and founder of “Parliamentarians for Al Quds” (“برلمانيون لأجل القدس”), which group organised the seminar and was formed in 2015. During that year, in October, its first seminar was held in Istanbul – it is Istambul-based. Al-Ahmar in the header picture is pictured two away from Erdogan, to his left, the picture’s right.
It looks like Erdogan was not originally billed to speak, the event announced in October as being held under the auspices of Ismail Kahraman, speaker of the Turkey’s national assembly, though the field was left open for “hundreds of parliamentarians from around the world” to contribute.
Regarding Syria, Erdogan spoke out of context with the thrust of the seminar and indeed with most of his speech, a good summary of which can be read here. The bulk of his speech concerned Palestine: “Peace cannot be dreamed of in the region so long as this wound in the heart of the Middle East is left untreated.”
Remarkably little attention was paid to his remarks about Syria by, especially, the Western press. They felt themselves to be on surer ground only when the Russian foreign ministry sought to counterbalance utterances which are the closest heard by me, over a period of four decades, to a head of state of a country declaring war on another. This comment, if not strictly “Western”, is typical. However, despite the apparent Russian surprise, Erdogan and Putin were chatting on the ‘phone for the third time in recent days yesterday, Wednesday, evening: Kremlin. Lavrov is in Turkey today for a meeting of the strategic planning group of the “high-level Russian-Turkish cooperation council”.
There is talk in the Russian press of “aid”, albeit to areas of Aleppo into which Assad has recently butchered himself, but also references to assistance to the remaining rebel-held area: “At the request of the UN, we are ready to assist in the medical evacuation from the part of Aleppo still controlled by the militants…”: Sputnik (again) .
At some point, Putin’s and Erdogan’s aims must either gel or break asunder. What benefit to either of another rift? And, what use is Assad to Putin, in the long run? The slant coming out of most of the Russian press, easily found, about rebel atrocities, with not a single reference made to a régime barrel bomb by name (at any rate, seen by me), and the continued bombing by the Russian air force in ill-defined locations in Syria (the extent is unclear: dated “30.11.2016, 18:00”) fill the thinking world with odium. And even Assad’s more coherent apologists – those who see him as the lesser of two evils (I have spoken to and read not a few, over the years) – acknowledge the thuggishness of his system. Russia’s actions and Russia’s support for Assad in Syria are a PR catastrophe for Putin, confirming the worst demonic interpretation of his character, and are not going to make Russia rich and prosperous either, in a free world.
Erdogan could not have made that somewhat obscured statement on Tuesday, taking into account the true meaning of it, without Putin’s foreknowledge… unless he seeks war with Russia or was posturing like a child, neither very likely! If Assad screws up regarding aid to free Aleppo (free as in free from him), which is likely, as he wishes to destroy the place and so will not desire to feed or otherwise assist those seeking to prevent this, Putin may use that failure imperceptibly to move the lever for Assad just over its point of equilibrium to against, clouded by the smoke and guns of Turkey – should she attack soon. This is a deal between two men, deception on a grand scale the dance on the Russian stage – from press secretary to the press itself, from bombers to aid trucks – as Turkey bangs the drums in the pit.
I am probably wrong.