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09/13/2020

‘Winning thanks to the Astana process’ – Experts comment on Lavrov’s visit to Damascus

‘Winning thanks to the Astana process’ – Experts comment on Lavrov’s visit to Damascus

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Syrian capital for the first time since 2012 and the regional messages he conveyed continue to be discussed.

Yury Borisov, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, was also present in the delegation, marking the first official visit by Lavrov to Damascus after 8 years.

The Russian delegation’s visit on September 7 took place at a time when the economic crisis and coronavirus epidemic affected Syria.

It was noteworthy that Lavrov’s visit took place at a time when issues such as the oil deal between the YPG and the USA, the Geneva process and the Idlib debate were on the agenda.

During the talks, many issues were discussed from the breaking of the impact of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of the USA to the Idlib and Astana process.

In his statements in Damascus, Lavrov emphasized the importance and success of the Astana process and the necessity of focusing on a common goal. He also stated that the territories controlled by the Syrian government in the Idlib de-escalation zone have increased significantly since the moment the Russian-Turkish agreements were signed.

Evaluating Lavrov’s statements, regional experts pointed out that the Astana Process completely changed the balances in Syria and listed the post-Astana developments:

-ISIS was largely removed from Syria.

-The area of the PKK / PYD terrorist organization was narrowed.

-Opening the corridor from the Turkey-Syria border to the Mediterranean was blocked.

We have discussed Lavrov’s messages with Semih Koray, head of International Relations Bureau of Vatan Party, and Prof. Dr. Hasan Ünal, International Relations Specialist from Maltepe University.

Ankara, Moscow and Damascus vs. the US and the PKK/PYD: recent developments

‘THE COMMON GOAL IS PRIMARY’

The Head of International Relations Office of Vatan Party, Prof. Dr. Semih Koray stated that Lavrov clearly stated that the struggle in Syria was given “against international terrorism and the forces that implemented the project to destroy the state of Syria” and continued as follows:

“It is clear that the project of destroying the state of Syria belongs to the US and that this project is being implemented by the terrorist organizations under its control. Lavrov’s saying that the fact that Russia and Turkey would respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would not promote separatist movements is written in all documents in the aspect of Astana, complements his words over the goal of the struggle in Syria. Drawing attention to the role played by the Russian-Turkish agreement in Idlib, Lavrov says that the process is ‘carried out slowly but steadily and there are all reasons to expect that it will continue until the end.’

Lavrov’s statements reflect the common goal of the cooperation between Turkey and Russia in the region and in Syria. Perhaps what is more important is that the Atlanticist authorities try to use these talks in order to create a conflict between Turkey and Russia, and while doing so, […] they are trying to take advantage particularly from the disconnection between Ankara and Damascus. There is no doubt that there are some differences between Russia and Turkey in terms of priorities of these countries, but the common goal which is expressed in Lavrov’s statement has a great strategic importance for both countries and has a weight that will ensure that priority differences are trivialized. The history of Turkish-Russian relations within the framework of the Astana Process is an indicator that it is possible to carry our joint achievements to a far higher level.”

‘THE ASTANA PROCESS IS TO THE BENEFIT OF TURKEY’

International Relations Specialist from Maltepe University, Prof. Dr. Hasan Unal stated that the Astana process was to the benefit of Turkey, yet, there are steps that need to be taken by Turkey in this regard.

“The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to Syria and his statements are important. Terrorism in the region decreased and became ineffective after the “Astana Process”. The Damascus administration gained control over most of the country. This case is for the benefit of Turkey. If Syria enters completely under the control of the Damascus administration, Turkey will be the one who benefits most. Syria-originated terror threat to Turkey will dramatically end. To get faster results on this issue, Turkey needs to go to drastic changes in its Syria policy. The problem carries on unless Turkey changes its Syria policy, and escalates tensions with Damascus,” Ünal said.

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“IMPOSING A NEW CONSTITUTION IS WRONG”

Emphasizing that the enforcement of a new constitution is wrong, Ünal said that, “There is no one left who insists on this issue except us. There is no one in the field to meet Turkey’s new constitution demands. The current Syrian constitution is a constitution that preserves the national and unitary structure. The biggest supporter of Turkey’s new constitution demand is America. Changing the current constitution works for the US. The US is expecting Turkey to create autonomous regions in Syria with a new constitution. They also plan to provide the legal foundations of the PKK / PYD in this way.”

Erdogan and Putin’s talks on Idlib: a brief analysis

Drawing attention to the fact that Russia aimed to turn the success in the field into diplomatic triumph and end the war, Ünal argued the following: “Turkey can take some steps not to completely leave the region of Russia PKK / PYD to the USA due to the wrong policies. The Damascus administration has always opposed such initiatives. But Turkey’s insistence not to cooperate with Damascus could lead to such results. Turkey should immediately decide which case is for its benefit: Damaging the Damascus administration or prevent establishing a statelet under the control of the USA in the east of Fırat.”

‘THE CAIRO PROCESS’

Stating that the “Astana Process” model should be implemented with other countries in the region, Prof. Dr. Hasan Unal asserted the view that “a structure similar to the Astana Process, should be established among Russia, Turkey and Egypt. It can be called the “Cairo Process”. Contact should be made with Egypt. Egypt’s demands from Turkey are not unacceptable. If Turkey, Egypt and Russia dealt with the problems of the region collectively, both stability is provided in Libya, and the tension in the eastern Mediterranean comes to an end. Greece will have to bear the consequences.”

Elif İlhamoğlu
Elif İlhamoğlu is political scientist and  journalist (Turkey). She is studying for PHD on the political science and international relations department at Istanbul University (Middle East studies). She visited Middle East countries, Syria, Lebanon, Iran several times and did interviews with the leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hilal al-Hilal Secretary General of the Syrian Ba'ath Party.

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