Who controls Syria's fate?
Putin and Erdoğan have worked out a 10-point plan for Syria at a meeting in Sochi. Among other things they agreed to extend the ceasefire by 150 hours and establish a buffer zone near the Syrian-Turkish border out of which the Kurdish YPG militia are to withdraw. After that Russian, Turkish and Syrian units will take control. Commentators discuss who will be calling the shots in Syria now.
Undreamed-of power for Putin
The meeting shows how powerful Russia has become, Der Standard comments:
“Western criticism of Tayyip Erdoğan's offensive leaves him cold. But if the Turkish president wants to achieve anything in Syria he can only do it in consultation with Russia and the Kremlin leadership. Vladimir Putin summoned his Turkish counterpart to Sochi to negotiate the future of Syria. That alone shows how much power the Russian president once again wields on the world stage. After the US's withdrawal from Syria, Russia is practically the only large regulatory force in the Middle East. No doubt it's more than Moscow dreamed of in 2015, when Putin resolved to keep Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad in power with Russian bombs.”
Erdoğan is de facto negotiating with Assad
Commenting in his blog Yetkin Report, Murat Yetkin also finds that Putin has pulled off an astonishing feat:
“Putin received something from Erdoğan that he very much wanted: the promise that the whole process would from now on be conducted in cooperation with the Syrian regime. ... Yet Erdoğan originally got involved in Syria with the objective of Assad having to leave and the Baath regime being overthrown and preferably replaced by a government consisting mainly of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now Erdoğan hasn't promised Putin that he will be friends with Assad, but that he will at least cooperate with the Baath regime. ... In the current situation it is not clear how long Bashar Assad will remain in power, but he has to a certain extent won.”
Czar and sultan divide Syria among themselves
This is the end for Rojava, La Repubblica complains:
“Farewell to Rojava. Kobanî soon in the hands of Turkish troops. The dream of a 'Western Kurdistan' in northern Syria died for good in the seventh hour of the meeting in Sochi on the Black Sea, at which the czar and the sultan divided the last remnants of an autonomous Kurdish territory among themselves. ... The Putin-Erdoğan pact thus sanctions the end of the autonomous Rojava experiment after hundreds of civilian deaths. ... If the Kurdish population doesn't want to flee southwards to the Syria controlled by President Bashar al-Assad it must surrender to the new occupying power.”
When the opponent takes away its goalkeeper
Radio Kommersant FM doubts Russia will be able to go on scoring such easy victories in its new role as peacekeeper in the Middle East:
“Not even the far more economically powerful US was able to fulfil that mission. Is Moscow biting off more than it can chew? ... There's no sign of that for now. Nevertheless Russia shouldn't rest on its laurels. Geopolitical victories won't always be as easy for it as they are now, after the US contingent's withdrawal from northeast Syria. Moscow has won this first half of the Middle East match with overwhelming results. But let's not kid ourselves: that's above all due to the fact that the other side took its goalkeeper off the pitch and let Russia shoot at an empty goal. Things are not always going to be that easy.”