08/25/2016, 10.59
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'Euphrates Shield ' worries Moscow; relations with Ankara at risk

by Nina Achmatova

Russia is not in favor of the Turkish operations in Syria against the IS, which have US backing. Moscow calls for an "extensive coordination." Russian experts: Erdogan has made it clear that the priority remains his relationship with the US.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Ankara's military operation in Syria "is supported by Washington, but not Moscow”, announces Russian daily Kommersant in its editorial on the 'Euphrates Shield' operation, launched by Turkey in the north of Syria.

In the operation the Turkish armored vehicles and about 5 thousand fighters of the Free Syrian Army, opposed to the government of Damascus, wrested the city of Jarablus from the IS, on the border with Turkey. US fighter-jets were also deployed in support of the Free Syrian Army, which would have counted just one fatality in the fighting. The operation, however, has created no little discontent in Russia.

According to a Kommersant "military source", the Moscow secret services were in possession of information about Turkey's intention to intervene, "but the scale was unexpected". "They could have taken this city with less force - the source said – meaning they have no intention of stopping at this district and, most likely, they will go further."

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep concern" about the possibility of a "further deterioration of the conflict with regard to the possible victims among the civilian population and the escalation of inter-ethnic conflict between Kurds and Arabs." A Russian diplomatic source has also urged Ankara to coordinate its actions with Damascus, so that they are "really effective".

The announcement of the start of operations in Syria has arrived the day of the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Ankara, where he met with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. In a press conference, Biden said the United States and Turkey will continue to target the IS in Syria. Yildirim added that Ankara will not allow a new Kurdish enclave at its southern border. The Turkish prime minister claimed the Kurdish PYD "are an extension of the PKK" and asked Washington to reconsider its position on the issue. To date the US have considered the Kurdish forces allies in Syria in the struggle against IS.

According to Aleksandr Vasiliev, from the Oriental Studies Institute, the 'Euphrates Shield' operation is mainly directed against the Kurds, even if it is masked behind the fight against international terrorism. "The main objective - said the analyst - is to prevent the Kurdish cantons becoming a single enclave on the border between Syria and Turkey."

The director of the Center for strategic analysis, Ruslan Pukhov, stressed the symbolic launch of the operation, coinciding with Biden's visit. "Given that the relationship between Ankara and Washington in recent weeks, has reached the lowest point, for both parties this has become the perfect opportunity to divert attention from the problems associated with Fethullah Gulen (Turkey is demanding his extradition from the United States, and accuse him of masterminding last months attempted coup ), and show that the two countries remain strategic allies".

With 'Euphrates Shield', the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent a signal that relations with the US remain a priority and that he prefers to act within the framework of the anti-terrorist coalition led by Washington, than in a Russian led one.

According to Kommersant, military and diplomatic circles in Moscow, in the event of an aggravation of the situation, are ready to use unofficial channels of bilateral contacts with Turkish colleagues and, if necessary, to express their concerns to the United States.

Ankara's actions in Syria can seriously impair the process of normalization of bilateral relations with Moscow, on which had agreed a few weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan, in their meeting in St. Petersburg. "Erdogan is playing his game and as always is on the other side of the fence," claims the director of the 'Russia-East-West' Center, Vladimir Sotnikov.

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