The northwestern Syrian city of Tall Rifat could be a testing ground for a mechanism to be established between Turkey and Syria for possible military cooperation, according to Serhat Erkmen, a Turkish academic working on the relations between the two neighbouring countries.
Erkmen recently visited Syria and observed that the Syrian army have started positioning its troops on the south of Manbij, al-Bab and Tall Rifat, wrote Muharrem Sarıkaya, a columnist of Habertürk news site on Friday.
Sarıkaya said Turkey and Syria needed to test a possible cooperation among their armies before entering a new phase in relations that will follow the meeting between the two countries’ defence ministers and intelligence chiefs on 28 December.
Erkmen told the columnist that Tall Rifat, a city the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said should be cleared of terrorists, could be the place where the two countries will test whether the intended mechanism will work.
“It seems like Turkey might bomb places agreed upon beforehand and creating terrorism by its air forces from the north; then Syrian forces could come and settle in areas emptied. No unwanted group will remain in this area. Russia could be the observer of this process,” Erkmen said.
According to Erkmen, Ankara’s ultimate aim is to ensure an agreement between the Syrian government and Syrian rebels for Damascus to have the capacity to protect its borders.
The Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, who met his Syrian counterpart in Moscow, told reporters after his return that the two countries could cooperate on the ground in the future if they could solve problems concerning security and defence.
While Ankara and Damascus have been trying to mend bridges they had burned in the last decade through a Moscow-brokered process, Turkey has been attacking Kurdish-controlled areas in North and East Syria since 20 November and hinting that a possible ground invasion might follow.
Turkey sees the Kurdish armed units in Syria as a terrorist group and has justified its previous ground operations in Syria as efforts to protect its national security.
However, the scenario described by Erkmen could face Washington’s objections, as the Kurdish forces in Syria form the backbone of the US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the country.