Turkish President Erdogan hosted his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani in Ankara this week for the 5th summit of the Astana peace process on Syria, Al-Monitor reported. The guarantors of the Astana peace process are the same: Iran, Russia, and Turkey.
The importance of the security zone that Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria is hard to underestimate, said President Erdogan. He repeated his resolve that if an agreement could not be reached between Ankara and Washington on the modalities of the security zone, Turkey was determined to go ahead with its own plan. In other words, this means Turkey will carry out a military operation east of the River Euphrates to establish a safe zone on its own terms.
Iranian leader drew attention to the “illegal U.S. military presence” on Syrian soil. He did not say that Turkey’s military presence in Syria was also illegal, but the Iranian position is well known; it only considers its own presence and that of Russia as legal.
Idlib as the central topic for 5th summit in Astana
The Russian President Putin stressed that the three leaders had agreed to take additional steps to reduce tensions in Idlib and that Russia would continue to extend what he said was limited assistance to the Syrian army to eradicate terror in the province.
But the most concrete progress was achieved on the constitutional process. An agreement has finally been reached on who will make up the constitutional committee. It will be composed of 150 members to be designated by the government, the United Nations and the opposition.
Turkey was encouraged by Russia during the previous summit in August to use the same agreement to cooperate with Syria to fight the common Kurdish enemy, but Turkey turned a deaf ear to the suggestion. So Rouhani repeated the suggestion once more, especially after the UN and Damascus labelled the SDF a terrorist organisation.
Astana process demonstrates better progress than parallel UN Geneva talks
Kazakhstan first hosted a round of peace talks back in January 2017. The most recent round took place this past August 1-2, with the next talks scheduled for October.
The Astana Peace process is meant to be a complement to the parallel Geneva process, while the third branch of negotiations was started by Russia, which hosted a Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi in January 2018.