Tabnak – As the international efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis and to move the government and the rebels toward a compromise are still going on, recent incidents in a Syrian hot-spot have once again attracted the attention to the fragility of the current situation and also the limits of forming a long-lasting collaboration among the various involved parties.
According to the reports published by the international media, a Russian airstrike caused the death of three Turkish soldiers on Thursday. The incident happened when the Russian fighter jets were bombarding the ISIS positions in Al-Bab in northern Syria, where the Turkish troops have been for a while active supporting the Syrian rebel groups.
Soon after the incident, both the Russian and the Turkish sides stressed that it was just an accident and didn’t mean any conflict. Furthermore, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his condolences, while stressing that to avoid the similar accidents in the future, the two sides should increase their military cooperation in Syria.
In fact, the positions taken by the two sides and especially Putin’s phone call was an attempt to show that they are still committed to the previous agreements in Moscow and Astana, in which they emphasized the need to conduct joint military operations against the ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria.
However, such positions didn’t stop some observers and analysts from speculating that incidents like this could have wide-ranging implication down the road, especially when we observe it in relation to some other recent conflicts between the many sides active in the Syrian battlefield.
New York Time’s Anne Barnard was among those who viewed the situation from this perspective. "The incident between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia, ratcheted up an already risky situation in northern Syria. It came as Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkish troops clashed in that same area for the first time with pro-government forces working with Russian air cover”, she wrote in her February 9 report for the Times.
Indeed her reference to a recent clash between the Turkish-backed rebels and the Syrian army, has many things to say about the conflicting interests of the various sides in Al-Bab.
As a city with great strategic importance, controlling Al-Bab could provide the conquering force with the opportunity to improve its hand in the future political talks. This is why after experiencing heavy blows in Aleppo and elsewhere, the rebels are trying hard to be the first force that controls Al-Bab.
At the same time, fearing the possibility of more Kurdish advances in northern Syria, Turkey has fully assisted its favored rebels against the others in Al-Bab. Ankara also wants to have a stronger position in the future international talks, so that it could have a guaranteed level of influence in the process of devising a roadmap for the political transition in Syria.
Considering such a complex situation, it could be said that although currently having a common enemy, namely ISIS and the necessity to defeat it as the first step toward resolving the conflict has caused the various domestic and international actors to keep a level of collaboration and refrain from inciting conflicts, this does not mean that their long-term plans for the future of Syria could also converge. Thus, the next round of the Syrian talks later this month could be even more challenging.