A strong US delegation headed by President Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton has completed its trip to Turkey with a short-term visit to Ankara on January 7th, 2019. The talks were also attended by former US Ambassador to Turkey and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition against Islamic State James Jeffrey and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dundford.
The Turkish delegation was led by Assistant and Press Secretary to the Turkish President Ibrahim Kalin and comprised assistant ministers for foreign affairs and defense, as well as deputy chief of intelligence.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with the American delegation, saying this was unnecessary due to his constant contacts with Donald Trump. At the same time, the Turkish press was widely covering statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of John Bolton's trip to the region and during his visit to Israel. Both American politicians accused the Turkish leadership of oppressing the Kurdish people and pointed to Washington's hostile attitude to the military operation planned by Ankara in Northern and North-Eastern Syria.
It is quite obvious that the Turkish side expected the Americans to display at least some understanding or tacit support for their plans to neutralize the military infrastructure of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, which are part of the US-led Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, an international terrorist group banned in Russia). Ankara has qualified the Syrian People's Protection Units as an international terrorist organization, accusing them of following the ideology of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party. Washington, in its turn, considers the Kurdish units a faithful ally of Global Coalition forces and expresses readiness to protect them from Turkish military operations in Syria east of the Euphrates river.
Ankara hoped that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US contingent from Syria would give the go-ahead for a Turkish military campaign against Kurdish units. Moreover, the Turkish leadership was seeking to receive 17 large American facilities in northern and eastern Syria among other "friendly" steps towards the closest NATO ally in Asia. But this never happened.
By contrast, the Americans agreed to bring Syrian governmental units and Russian military police to the city of Manbij, with the latter immediately starting to vigorously patrol the locality, make arrangements for demining the area and ensuring the voluntary surrender of arms, ammunition and other military equipment illicitly possessed by the population. The Russian military's participation in safety and security arrangements helped deter pro-Turkish groups of the Syrian opposition striving into Manbij from armed clashes with the Kurdish forces of the Manbij military committee.
Within the given scenario, the Turkish leadership is unlikely to "forgive" the Americans for their uncompromising attitude as regards Northern Syria. The plan for expanding the military invasion of Ankara finds no support from Washington and won't get it from Moscow either. Recep Erdogan has little choice but to restrain himself of abrupt movements that may induce a sharp response from the United States. The Russian leadership is also uncomfortable with any US-Turkish military confrontation, as it might blow up the situation in the region and frustrate all Russia's efforts to ensure a peaceful settlement in Syria.
In general, Russia takes a sober position. Its main efforts are aimed at deterring the parties from actions that could lead to a sharp aggravation of the military situation in the region. On December 28th, 2018 Moscow witnessed confidential negotiations with foreign and defense ministers of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Hulusi Akar, as well as with the Kurdish delegation headed by commander of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units Hakan Fidan. No official statements have been made. However, what followed was an order by the Turkish armed forces' command to stop building up forces in Syria.
Apparently, Russia will once again have to intensify peacekeeping efforts to talk the warring parties out of resorting to fire and seek compromise in settling disputes and contradictions between them, while avoiding a decline in its influence and authority among allies and other parties concerned.
But a lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit!