The aftermath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Aug. 9 meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has seen a flurry of Turkish-Iranian and Russian-Iranian contacts centered on the Syrian crisis. Expectations have grown that the bilateral contacts will turn into a trilateral mechanism. Statements from Moscow and Tehran have fed optimism that a common understanding is close, with officials highlighting the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity, the Syrian people’s right to decide their future and the fight against terrorism.
As Ankara scrambles to make a foreign policy pivot, a series of important developments around the Syrian crisis have gone largely unnoticed. On June 9, the defense ministers of Iran, Syria and Russia came together in Tehran for the first time since the Syrian crisis broke out more than five years ago. According to Iranian state television, the meeting indicated that the Syrian war had entered its “final stage.”
The July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey led to a telephone call between Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in which the two discussed regional issues. Then, on Aug. 8, the leaders of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan met in Baku and signaled that Turkey was welcome to join. “Neither Arab nor Western countries could give Erdogan the support that Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani can give,”said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpour, as Erdogan made no secret of his displeasure with the level of Western support he received after the putsch.
Erdogan’s meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg the following day resulted in a decision to establish a “strong” bilateral mechanism to try to resolve the Syrian crisis involving intelligence, Foreign Ministry and military officials.