Erdogan Covertly Reaches out to Assad, Raising His New Allies’ Mistrust

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had high hopes of putting together a new Sunni bloc along with Turkey and Egypt, attaching Israel as a silent partner, when he asked President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria to broker an end to the feud between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt's President Fateh El-Sisi.
After all reconciliation was in the air:
On June 27, Israel and Turkey signed a reconciliation accord to restore ties after six years of discord.
Two days later, Erdogan spoke on the phone with President Vladimir Putin and they buried the hatchet eight months after a Turkish rocket downed a Russian jet over the Syria-Turkey border. Putin demanded and got apologies and restitution. On July 1, the accord was signed by the two foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
The Algerian mediators expected their mission to be a cake walk.
But, according to DEBKA Weekly intelligence sources, the Turkish president had typically thrown a spanner in the works of what should have been a relatively trouble-free coming together of Muslim rulers with strong common interests.
Erdogan went behind all their backs for a clandestine bid to repair his ties with Syria President Bashar Assad. Our sources report that a party from the Turkish MIT intelligence agency covertly visited Damascus in the past few days and met with the Syrian intelligence chief, Gen. Ali Mamlouk. There were subsequent secret talks in the Turkey-Syria border province of Hatay.
Erdogan did not acquaint either Moscow or Jerusalem with the clandestine track he had opened up to Damascus. It came to light by chance in the course of an exchange of information on Syria between the Russian and Israeli intelligence agencies and cast a cloud of mistrust over Turkey’s newly-repaired ties with Russia and Israel.
(Read a separate article on the new Russo-Israeli intelligence relationship.)
The Russians demanded clarifications of Erdogan’s dealings with Assad, making it clear that Moscow would not put up with an autonomous Turkish policy for Damascus and their reconciliation would be at risk over the issue.
Moscow was concerned that Ankara, which also maintains relationships with several Syrian rebel groups, would get in the way of Russian interests and its military strategy in the Syrian arena.
Israel’s only concern with Erdogan’s hole-in-the-corner step was its potential for impairing its military arrangements with Moscow for southern Syria and the Syrian-Israeli borderlands.
The Obama administration decided to stay on the sidelines of this three-sided tug-of-war.
But in Cairo, President El-Sisi raised the ante for mending his fences with Erdogan – and hence jumping aboard the new alliance. The Algerian mediators were instructed to carry the following conditions to Ankara:
1. Muslim Brotherhood leaders granted asylum in Turkey must be extradited to Egypt, according to a list they would present. Most were members of the opposition Brotherhood outlawed by the El-Sisi government, who had been using Istanbul as headquarters for orchestrating terrorist and subversive operations by its underground networks in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
2. All other Muslim Brotherhood activists must be deported from Turkey.
These demands approximated Israel’s terms for mending relations with Turkey:The high-profile Palestinian Hamas activists running terrorist operations from Istanbul were indeed booted out to Qatar, although their office remained open under a ban on dabbling in terrorism.
By the time we wrapped up this issue, Erdogan had not bowed to El-Sisi’s terms. But the Algerian diplomats are still flying back and forth between the two capitals.

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