On Tuesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov strongly criticized Turkey in the latest round of talks regarding the ongoing Syrian civil war, calling into question Ankara’s role and intentions in the process.
Speaking with Russian Izvestia Daily, Gatilov claimed Ankara persuaded the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to abandon multilateral negotiations, imperiling a hard-won ceasefire orchestrated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
"It is a pity that foreign players, and important regional players such as Turkey, continue to play an unconstructive role in this process," Gatilov remarked.
The peace talks, which began in Geneva on April 13, were halted after the HNC walked out of discussions in protest at what it claimed was a violation of the ceasefire by the Syrian government. Damascus challenged the allegations, saying the truce was violated by foreign-backed militants.
Concurrently, the Free Syrian Army — often referred to as "moderate" rebels by Western media outlets — announced that it would not comply with the strictures of the ceasefire, citing concerns that the Assad regime would use the lull in combat to stifle opposition.
The so-called moderate rebels, according to top US military officials, consist of al-Nusra Front militants, an al Qaeda spinoff extremist network only questionably less virulent than Daesh.
Introducing stability to the war-torn country has become increasingly complicated as the US government continues to provide military aid to groups in ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, under the guise of combating Daesh. US weapons and supplies consistently either end up in the hands of Daesh, who share many common allegiances with al-Nusra, or are otherwise turned against the Assad regime, undermining the effectiveness of the Syrian-Arab Army.
Additionally, the US finds itself regionally aligned with Saudi Arabia, a country seen as the primary financier of the Daesh and al-Qaeda extremist networks. Notably, Turkey has been implicated in recent months, in engaging in regular oil and arms trade with Daesh extremists in Syria. To further exacerbate matters, the most effective fighting force against Daesh, the region’s Kurdish minority, is considered by Ankara to be a sworn enemy of Turkey.
The Russian government, which initially installed ground troops and engaged in repeated airstrikes against Daesh, thereby preventing a total collapse of the Syrian government, often stands accused by Western media of striking out against those moderates supported by the US.
But it goes deeper. America is accused of arming Daesh, as well. There is consistent confusion rooted in the blurred lines and allegiances between al-Nusra and Daesh, along with conflicting policies of whether to combat Daesh first or attempt both a counter terrorism and regime-change operation in Syria concurrently, as is favored by the West.
It is into this appalling vacuum that America’s so-called allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia have operated, sowing havoc in Syria to advance national geopolitical imperatives. While Saudi Arabia seeks to garner cultural expansion of the fundamentalist Wahhabi Sunni tradition, Turkey has masterminded an effort to exact concessions from Europe in addressing a refugee crisis caused, in part, by the mismanagement of both Ankara and Brussels.
A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry released on Tuesday sums it up: "Lavrov again pointed to the need for the anti-government formations oriented at Washington to separate from the terrorist groups as soon as possible and to thwart the replenishments to extremists through the territory of Turkey."