Erdogan's Diplomatic Balancing Act: Hosting Assad and Putin Amidst Syria-Turkey Tensions

Amidst ongoing tensions between Syria and Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled a shift in his stance, indicating a willingness to host Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks aimed at resolving the decade-long conflict in Syria. This diplomatic move represents a significant departure from Erdogan's previous position of seeking Assad's ouster.

Historical Context:

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has played a pivotal role in providing refuge to millions of Syrian refugees and supporting the anti-Assad opposition. Erdogan has vehemently opposed Assad's regime, calling for his resignation and backing the Syrian rebel groups fighting to topple him.

Shift in Stance:

However, in recent months, Erdogan has exhibited a more conciliatory approach towards Assad. This shift in stance is driven by several factors, including Turkey's strained relations with the United States over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria, which has fueled refugee flows into Turkey. Additionally, Turkey's military operations in northern Syria and its ambitions to establish a buffer zone along the border have faced resistance from Syrian government forces and their Russian allies.

Hosting Assad and Putin:

Erdogan's willingness to host Assad and Putin for talks is seen as a strategic move to address these challenges and explore potential solutions to the Syrian crisis. The Turkish president believes that bringing the key players together can facilitate dialogue and pave the way for a diplomatic resolution. The timing of the meeting is significant, coming amidst preparations for the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023. Erdogan is seeking to improve his domestic standing by showcasing his diplomatic prowess and presenting himself as a regional mediator.

Challenges and Implications:

Hosting Assad and Putin presents several challenges for Erdogan. Firstly, it risks alienating anti-Assad Syrian opposition groups and their international supporters. Secondly, it could strain Turkey's relations with Western countries that have condemned Assad's regime and advocated for his removal. Thirdly, the talks may not yield any concrete results, as both Assad and Putin have their own strategic interests and may not be willing to make significant concessions.

Potential Outcomes:

Despite the challenges, Erdogan's initiative could potentially lead to a number of outcomes:

  • Diplomatic Breakthrough: The talks could result in a ceasefire agreement or a political roadmap for a transition in Syria.
  • Limited Progress: The meeting could yield some minor agreements, such as humanitarian assistance or the release of prisoners.
  • Stalemate: The talks could fail to produce any tangible results, leaving the conflict unresolved.

International Reactions:

The international community has reacted cautiously to Erdogan's diplomatic initiative. The United States has expressed concerns about the potential legitimization of Assad, but has not ruled out the possibility of dialogue. Russia has welcomed the move, viewing it as an opportunity to reduce tensions between Turkey and Syria. The European Union has urged all parties to engage in a "genuine and inclusive" political process.


Erdogan's decision to host Assad and Putin for talks marks a significant shift in Turkey's Syria policy. It reflects the country's evolving interests and the recognition that a purely military solution to the conflict is unlikely. The outcome of the talks remains uncertain, but they represent a potential opportunity to de-escalate tensions and pave the way for a political settlement in Syria. However, the challenges are significant, and any progress will depend on the willingness of all parties involved to compromise and work towards a lasting solution.

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