The fourth summit of the Astana process on the Syrian settlement will be held on February 14 in Sochi. The participants will focus on creating zones of de-escalation in Syria and launching a political transition in the country. The attention of the world community is focused on the upcoming summit, causing concern among European countries and the United States.
Turkish analysts shared their forecasts regarding the upcoming meeting with United World International.
During the summit Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani will discuss the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the situation in Idlib.
Thanks to the efforts of Turkey and Russia, the December 2016 truce contributed to the launch of the Astana negotiation process, which, in turn, led to the resumption of a new round of negotiations in Geneva after a year’s recess. However, the Geneva negotiation process did not bring substantive results – that`s why the first meeting on Syria in a trilateral format with Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders was held in Sochi on November 22, 2017.
ASTANA TRANSFORMED INTO A COMMON PLATFORM
The meeting in Sochi marked the beginning of the formation of a tripartite platform, and active joint steps being taken in Syria. Western countries, mainly the US, did not hide their discontent with the negotiations.
As a result of the summit, a joint statement by the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia was published. The statement emphasized, in particular, the following: “The Heads of State reaffirmed their firm commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and stressed that under no circumstances would the creation of the mentioned de-escalation zones or any political initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis should not undermine the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. ”
SECOND SUMMIT IN TURKEY
The second trilateral meeting of Turkey, Russia and Iran on Syria was held on April 4, 2018, under the chairmanship of Turkish leader Erdogan in the presidential palace in Ankara.
Following the talks, President Erdogan launched a number of new initiatives for a Syrian settlement. In particular, he proposed the cooperation of the three countries in providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and the construction of housing in a safe area. “After the construction of a mobile hospital, both our armed forces and the Russian armed forces will be able to assist the wounded who come from Eastern Guta,” Erdogan stressed. Putin expressed support for the Turkish leader’s initiative.
JOINT STATEMENT ON THE MEETING IN TEHRAN
The leaders met a third time on September 7, 2018, in Tehran.
At the end of the summit, a 12 point joint statement was published which the United States opposed.
During the joint press conference following the meeting, the leaders of the three countries made statements, which are summarized below:
ROUHANI: WE NEED TO PUT AN END TO UNLAWFUL US PRESENCE
“Given the complexity of the Syrian crisis, in order to put an end to the spread of the fire of war, it was very important for the three sides to reach common and fundamental agreements on issues of territorial integrity, unity of the Syrian Arab Republic, respect for sovereignty and the rights of Syrians to determine the fate of their country. We initially repeatedly stressed the ineffectiveness of the military approach to resolving the Syrian crisis. Today’s summit is held within the framework of the Astana process and in the continuation of the successful efforts of the three countries aimed at effectively combating terrorism and ending the Syrian crisis.
The final task in Syria and in the region can be only peace. But to achieve sustainable peace, a serious fight against terrorism is inevitable. The continued presence of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries of Syria has a negative impact. In doing so, we must prepare the ground for the return of refugees. The world community should assist the Syrian government in rebuilding their country. The illegal presence of the United States of America in Syria, which only led to an exacerbation of the situation, must immediately end. It is necessary to continue the cooperation and coordination of the three countries to establish peace and stability in Syria. The big responsibility rests on our shoulders. ”
ERDOGAN: US SUPPORTS TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS
“The whole world is looking forward to the results of our summit, the decisions that will be made here. I believe that we will meet these expectations. It is necessary to ensure the political unity of Syria. One of the most important steps taken during the Astana process was the implementation of the decision to create de-escalation zones.
The attack on Idlib will lead to a catastrophe, and it will be a huge humanitarian catastrophe. The problem must be solved in accordance with the spirit of the Astana format. We are extremely concerned that America continues to support terrorist organizations. Turkey will continue to be in this region until political, geographical and social unity is ensured in Syria. In light of this goal, it is necessary to take a step towards establishing a truce in Idlib. This will be a crucial step. In the event that the work on the formation of the constitutional committee is accelerated, the Syrian people will be able to see firsthand how their expectations will gradually begin to be realized. ”
PUTIN: THE TERRORISTS ARE PLANNING PROVOCATIONS
“Today, more than 90 percent of Syrian territory is under the control of government troops. The rest is located in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Terrorists are preparing various provocations, some with the use of chemical weapons. To achieve a settlement without unity and solidarity within the framework of the Astana process is very difficult. A constitutional committee will be formed at the UN. ”
Following the summit, the leaders, who called on all parties involved in the conflict to lay down their arms, issued a joint statement. The text of the Tehran Declaration, which consists of 12 points, emphasizes the determination to resist any attempts to harm the territorial integrity of Syria and the security of neighboring states.
The first meeting after the decision of the United States to withdraw troops from Syria
Journalist and representative of Hürriyet Daily News Serkan Demirtaş commented on the upcoming meeting in Sochi, stressed its importance, both in terms of the time and its agenda, as well as the future of Syria.
Demirtaş noted that on February 14, the leaders of the three countries will meet for the first time since the United States announced the withdrawal of its troops from Syria, and pointed out three main issues that will shape the summit agenda: “The priority issue at the upcoming meeting will be the withdrawal of American troops from Syrian territory and its effects. The fact that this process will affect the region to the east of the Euphrates (which represents one-third of Syrian territory and is currently controlled by the YPG Kurdish self-defense forces) led to the question of who will control this territory in the future. On this issue, Turkey’s position is different from Russia and Iran’s. The latter consider it necessary to transfer the area to the control of the Assad government. Turkey, in turn, has previously expressed disagreement with this position, ”Demirtaş said.
According to Demirtaş, during the meeting, the Turkish side will be concerned with clearing the region of YPG elements and ensuring the security of the Turkish border. “During the summit, Turkey will seek from its partners in the Astana format guarantees that Kurdish forces will not be given territory in eastern Syria which they could use to conduct terrorist activities or implement political moves, in particular, declaring autonomy,” he said.
The journalist also noted that during the trilateral meeting, a discussion on the negotiation process between Turkey and the United States on the creation of a security zone would not be a surprise.
THE SITUATION IN IDLIB IS ALSO ON THE SUMMIT AGENDA
Demirtaş stressed that during the summit in Sochi, the current situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone will also be discussed amid the intensification of the activities of the terrorist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the region and the increase in attacks on the positions of moderate opposition and the Free Syrian Army.
Recalling the recent appeal by Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zakharova for Turkey to intensify its resolve toward the situation in Idlib, Demirtaş said: “The statements of the Russian and Syrian authorities indicate that their patience with regard to the Idlib issue is coming to an end. During the upcoming meeting, the steps that need to be taken in the region to normalize the situation will be discussed. Some information appeared in the media about Russia’s desire to conduct a joint operation with Turkey, but what Turkey’s position will be on this issue, only time will tell. ”
According to Demirtaş, the main item on the agenda of the upcoming meeting will be various efforts toward a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. It is very likely that at the Sochi summit the parties will again call for the creation of a Constitutional Committee, which has not yet been formed, despite the fact that a corresponding agreement was reached in 2018.
“The foreign ministers of the three countries, having met in December in Geneva, could not announce the creation of a committee due to unforeseen circumstances. The parties intend to carry out this step in the near future since they want to present to the public a concrete positive signal about the approaching end of the civil war in Syria, ” Demirtaş concluded.
MORE NECESSARY MEETINGS AHEAD
Lecturer at the Economic and Technological University of the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB, Department of International Relations) and expert at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) Nihat Ali Özcan, also commented on the upcoming tripartite summit: “At the moment there is a discussion about the situation in Syria in the short term. The focus of this discussion is on Idlib. Therefore, during the meeting, the priority topic will be the state of affairs in the Idlib zone.
The fact is that Turkey has delayed the implementation of a number of its obligations in the area. One such commitment was the opening of the route from Idlib to Aleppo and Latakia. which was planned for December 15th. The date was eventually postponed, but the second attempt also fell through. Another major change in the region is that the HTS group associated with Al Qaeda has taken control of 80 percent of Idlib’s territory. These factors created the impression that Turkish attempts to make a distinction between moderate and radical forces in Idlib and to convince the latter to surrender their weapons, were defeated. Now, this topic is being actively discussed by the political and expert community, and, undoubtedly, will be touched upon by leaders during the upcoming meeting. ”
RUSSIA WANTS TURKEY TO SET UP CONTACT WITH DAMASCUS
In his commentary, Nihat Ali Özcan stressed: “With regard to the long-term discussions on Syria, the participants will try to better understand each other’s positions on issues such as Turkish-US negotiations on the creation of a security zone, interaction with Kurdish forces, and the consequences of the removal of American troops from the eastern territories of Syria. Putin’s position on this issue is well known. At the last meeting, he stated that “the region must be transferred to the control of the Syrian authorities since they are the legitimate government.” Given this, Putin will try to convince Turkey of the need to establish a dialogue with the Assad government.
A recent statement by President Erdogan vowing to maintain Turkish-Syrian intelligence contacts indicates that the two countries still hold closed-door meetings.
However, apparently, one meeting in Sochi will not be enough to resolve all the existing issues, so the negotiation process is likely to continue. There are a large number of problematic points regarding how the formation and functioning of the constitutional commission will take place and what the text of the new constitution will be. The Assad government, acting as a sovereign force, does not want to allow Turkey to penetrate this territory. Russia is also concerned about the possible negative consequences of this step for the region. Apparently, the sides still need to have a lot of meetings, ” he concluded.