Since December 2022, Turkey and Syria, under Russia’s oversight, have begun a process of rapprochement. Considering the Turkish occupation in Northern Syria and the fact that both nations see the United States (US) backed Kurdish groups in the north as a threat. This shows that Turkey is seeking stability on its southern border despite having previously desired the overthrow of Assad’s regime. Furthermore, with increasing Russian difficulty in Ukraine, Russia will push both parties to come to an agreement so they can pivot assets from Syria. Finally, despite being invited to these talks, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has repeatedly denounced all parties and seems to merge its position in Northern Syria.
Key Judgement 1. It is likely that because of these talks, the Syrian Regime and Turkey will come to a mutually beneficial agreement regarding Northern Syria in the next six months.
- As of 5 January 2023, President Erdogan is claiming to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the peace process. (Source)
- Both the Syrian Regime and Turkey see US backed Kurdish groups in the north of Syria as threats. (Source)
- Since June 2022, Erdogan has been threatening Northern Syria with invasion and has called for Syrian Regime forces to occupy previously rebel held ground. (Source)
- Turkey is blaming Kurdish groups for the Istanbul bombing in November 2022 and is therefore increasing cooperation with Syria against them. (Source)
- Turkey is describing bilateral talks with the Syrian regime as a positive experience. (Source)
- These talks coincide with increasing hostilities taken by the Turkish state against Kurdish groups in North Syria. (Source)
- Although Turkey has previously supported opponents of the Syrian Regime, it is to give these up for stability on its border. (Source)
- Turkey has a large population of Syrian migrants who are creating economic pressure. Therefore, a resolution in Syria would be beneficial.
- Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs have been repeatedly meeting since September 2022. (Source)
- There are hints that these talks will cause joint counterterrorism operations. (Source)
Key Judgement 2: It is likely that Russia will push for a productive result in these talks because of a desire to pull resources from Syria and pivot to Ukraine in the next 6 months.
- Russia is hosting talks between Syrian and Turkish defence ministers in Moscow with input from their defence ministry. (Source)
- Russia has repeatedly committed to the Turkish desire for a buffer zone to be established on the Syrian border. (Source)
- President Erdogan claims he is willing for rapprochement to occur as part of a tripartite involving Russia and Syria. (Source)
- Turkey and Russia have been improving relations despite opposition over the war in Ukraine, because of the proposed gas pipeline plans. (Source)
- With Russia claiming to be mobilising an extra 500,000 troops for Ukraine, Russian assets in Syria are in demand. (Source)
Key Judgement 3: It is highly likely Hayat Tahrir al-Sham will continue to consolidate its position in Northern Syria in response to these talks in the next 6 months.
- There has been growing hostility between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Turkey due to them designating them a terrorist organisation. (Source)
- The leader of HTS Abu Muhammad al-Julani is refusing reconciliation with the Syrian Regime and has vowed to continue the Islamic Revolution. (Source)
- Moreover, in his speech, Julani identifies the ongoing talks between Syria and Turkey as a threat to the revolution. (Source)
- This comes at a time where HTS are showing off a new elite special forces unit. (Source)
- HTS expanded their area of control dramatically in October 2022 with the seizure of Afrin, which is near the Turkish border. (Source)
Intelligence Cut-off Date: 15 January 2023