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Are Russia and Turkey making deals or parting ways in Syria?

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Over the past few weeks, northwest Syria witnessed yet another serious military escalation. Russian and Syrian regime forces unleashed a deadly campaign of bombardment on parts of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces, after two attacks by Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an armed group formerly linked to al-Qaeda, killed 22 pro-regime fighters on April 27.

The recent escalation was the most significant one since Moscow and Ankara reached a tentative deal to avert a ground offensive by establishing a demilitarised zone in rebel-held areas in the northwest last September. Over the past few months the terms of the agreement have been repeatedly violated, with bombardment and sporadic clashes killing close to 500 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkish troops were also targeted in two separate incidents in early May. Syrian regime forces shelled a Turkish observation post in northern Hama province, while Kurdish militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG) attacked Turkish positions near Tel Rifaat, northern Aleppo province, killing one Turkish soldier.

These attacks and the developments that followed demonstrate that significant cracks are appearing in the Russian-Turkish alliance, as the two sides struggle to implement the agreed ceasefires.

So far Russia and Turkey have pinned their cooperation in Syria on the common interest of containing US pressure. Yet major differences have become increasingly difficult to ignore: Moscow has run out of patience with Ankara its inability to rein in HTS and secure the full implementation of the demilitarised zone, while the Turkish side has grown frustrated that Russian promises to push the YPG out of Tel Rifaat have remained unfulfilled.

As the two are increasingly unable to agree on the way forward in Syria, Turkey has been trying to "play" both Russia and the US to secure........

© Al Jazeera