Recep Tayyip Erdogan /

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will get another chance to lobby Vladimir Putin to protect Turkish interests as the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Syria, leaving Russia as the key power broker in that war-ravaged nation.


The two leaders meet again in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss coordination in Syria, where they’ve been on opposing sides even as they deepened their friendship. Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the eight years of fighting, while Turkey supported militant forces seeking to overthrow him.

A key focus of the talks will be the city and province of Idlib, where an al-Qaeda affiliate called Hayat Tahrir al-Shamrouted routed Turkish-backed rebels in a sudden advance over the last few weeks. That leaves in tatters a deal that Turkey had reached with Moscow in September to avert a Syrian regime assault on the city. The agreement was contingent on Turkey and its allied forces clearing the city of terrorists, which they failed to do.

A green light from Moscow now for Assad to take back control of the province would mark a setback for Erdogan, who’s been trying to carve out areas of influence for anti-regime Islamist rebels. Turkey says that a political transition after the fighting ends must see Assad leave. But Putin’s envoy to the Middle East told Bloomberg last month that Assad is popular and would probably win a new election.