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News Analysis: Russia, Turkey to seek political solution to Syrian war after Aleppo evacuation

Updated: 12 19 , 2016 14:19
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ANKARA, Dec. 18 -- Once Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has fully captured Aleppo, Turkey and Russia will try to seek a political solution to the war in Syria, local experts say.

Turkey is urging for a broader ceasefire between the government and rebel groups, and for a resumption of negotiations to reach a political agreement in Syria, local Hurriyet Daily News columnist Serkan Demirtas said, adding that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently said a ceasefire in Aleppo should be extended to the entire country.

According to Demirtas, Assad's control over Aleppo would change both the political and military balances in Syria to the advantage of the Damascus-Moscow-Tehran trio.

"It is rational for Turkey to press on these actors for a general cease-fire across the entire country so that political talks can take place, aiming to end years of unrest in its southern neighbor," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed to arrange a meeting between the Syrian opposition and the government at Kazakhstan's Astana rather than Geneva, in what Demirtas described as a new attempt by Moscow to exclude major Western powers from the Syria peace talks.

After the cooperation between Turkey and Russia on the evacuation of Aleppo, Bora Bayraktar, an international relations academic from Kultur University, said that the two countries will now focus on a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

As a prominent actor in Syrian civil war, Ankara has leverage over Syrian rebels because of its geographic proximity and the three million refugees it has hosted, he said.

Moscow has paved the way for the Turkish army to launch airstrikes on northern Syria as part of the "Operation Euphrates Shield", where Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters target the Islamic State (IS) and Syrian Kurdish militants, to return Ankara's favor of reining in the rebels, according to Bayraktar.

Turkey has used its influence on the Syrian rebels to broker their withdrawal from Aleppo, the expert explained.

A similar deal is likely to emerge for Idilib, where Syrian rebels concentrate after the Aleppo evacuation, he said.

Bayraktar does not believe that the jihadist-held Idlib, a city to the west of Aleppo and only 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, will be the next target of the Syrian government, as security in Aleppo would be at risk if the government and its supporters shift military resources to the province.

"Russia would prefer to solve the Idlib issue at the negotiation table, because it has already gained very important achievements. Therefore Moscow would not risk losing them, and also would not want to lose Turkey either," he added.

As a direct link to the Turkish border, Idlib has become a key gateway to the Syrian rebels' survival in the long run.

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