Turkish President Erdogan called Russian President Vladimir Putin late in the evening on Wednesday 14th December 2016 in what looks like a desperate last minute plea by the Turkish leader to try to get the withdrawal of Jihadis from eastern Aleppo restarted.
That the two leaders discussed the situation in Aleppo is clear from the Kremlin’s report of their conversation
“The heads of state continued their ongoing exchange of views on Syria. In particular, they discussed the developments in Aleppo, and emphasised the need to build up joint efforts to improve the humanitarian situation and foster the start of a real political process in Syria.’
Shortly after this conversation took place reports drawing on Jihadi sources began to circulate in the Western media that the plan for the Jihadis to withdraw from eastern Aleppo is back on track, and that the withdrawal will happen shortly.
There has been no confirmation of this however from Moscow or Damascus. As I said earlier, experience has taught me to assume no agreement supposedly made by Russia until Moscow confirms it.
What is different this time is that Erdogan has now come out into the open as the true broker of the deal, and is no longer hiding behind Turkish intelligence.
Past experience has taught Erdogan the price of not keeping a promise to Putin. If he is promising that this time the Jihadis really will leave Aleppo, then he is once again putting his credit with Putin on the line.
Given his past dealings with Erdogan it is doubtful that Putin places much weight on what Erdogan tells him. Putin must also have doubts as to what influence over the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis in eastern Aleppo Erdogan really has.
Most likely there will be another brief draw down in the fighting of a few hours – though this will be a lot less than a ceasefire – to see whether the Jihadis do actually agree to leave as Erdogan promises.
With the Jihadis having lost more ground over the course of the day, and with their situation becoming more desperate by the hour, Putin probably calculates he has nothing to lose by giving Erdogan another chance.