Russia is competing with the United States in Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria. Reports indicate that Russian forces are working to establish a base there along the lines of the air base that the United States is said to have established in Al-Hasakah.
Witnesses in Syria said that the Russian army took up positions in an air base near the city of Al-Qamishli in the north-east. One of the fighters said that the Russian army recently contacted Sunni opposition fighters from the eastern Deir-Al-Zour governorate, and that this is the same group that was recruited by the US Department of Defense as part of its programme to train and arm the opposition. Ahmad, a fighter who wished for only his first name to be mentioned, said that he attended a meeting that was recently held with the Russians, Kurdish militias and Arab opposition fighters in Tal Abyad which is a small town near the Turkish border. Ahmad added that the Russians offered to provide his tribe (Al-Sheitaat) with weapons and support to regain their lands in Deir-Al-Zour from the hands of ISIS.
In addition to this, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday warned against any mobilisation of forces near the Turkish border with Syria. He told reporters after Friday prayers “We have said from the beginning: we will not tolerate such military formations along the area stretching from the Iraqi border up to the Mediterranean” and added that “We are very sensitive to this issue”. He explained that he would raise the matter in a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in Istanbul today.
All eyes will be on the Saudi capital Riyadh for the next few hours where the US Secretary of State John Kerry will hold a joint meeting with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) today. It is also expected that the American diplomat will hold meetings with Saudi officials, leaders of the Syrian opposition and the supreme negotiating body on the sidelines of the meeting to finalise a date for Geneva 3 and to reach an agreement in principle on the agenda after achieving a final understanding on the formation of a negotiating delegation.