Ankara-Moscow-Tehran Agree on Syria
By Mehman Aliyev
The Seventh trilateral summit of the Astana process on the settlement of the crisis in Syria, held in Tehran on July 19, ended with the respect of interests of Moscow, Tehran, Ankara and Damascus.
The Astana process started in January 2017 with the participation of Iran, Russia and Turkey in the capital of Kazakhstan with the aim of ending the war in Syria. The parties managed to establish a ceasefire in Syria and start negotiations between the Assad administration and the armed opposition. There were six summits and 18 rounds of intra-Syrian talks.
Receiving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed: “We consider the security of Turkey and its borders to be our security… You also consider the security of Syria to be your security. Syrian issues should be resolved through negotiations, and Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia should resolve this issue through dialogue.”
In Tehran, the Astana trio managed to reach an agreement on the need for the final neutralization of terrorist groups in Syria, including the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Moscow assured Turkey that the Kurdish militias would not pose a threat to Turkey from Syria. Literally during the summit, IRNA reported, citing the Al-Mayadeen network, “A Russian delegation led by the commander of Russian forces in Syria entered Kurdish-controlled areas on July 19 through Al-Qamishli airport. The mission of this military delegation is to mediate for the full implementation of the agreements between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the army of this country. Due to increasing threats from Turkey to conduct military operations in northern Syria under the pretext of the presence of armed Kurds, these forces, through the mediation of Russia, agreed to transfer control of areas in northern and northeastern Syria to the Syrian government army.”
Thus, as a result of the multi-move Moscow-Ankara-Tehran party, Damascus establishes control over the territory, which has been in the hands of the SDF since the start of the war in Syria.
The SDF had two choices: either face the Turkish army, which Erdogan threatened to send 30 km deep into Syria to create a border security belt, or recognize Assad’s authority over this territory.
Erdogan did not oppose the second scenario, but put forward the beginning of a political process in Syria as a precondition for the further democratic development of the process in this country, which will have to ensure the interests of all parties, and not least the Syrian Turks (Turkmans).
At a meeting with Khamenei, Erdogan, noting the long-term struggle of Iran and Turkey against terrorists (meaning the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliated organizations PJAK, PYD, YPG, SDF), said that Turkey’s position regarding the territorial integrity of Syria is clear: “We expect that the Syrian government will start political processes. At the summit in Astana, the Syrian issue is on the agenda, and we hope to achieve good results.”
According to the Turkish Anadolu Agency, during the talks, the leaders reaffirmed their resolve in the common fight against terrorist organizations in Syria. “It is necessary to put an end to the presence of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria forever,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in particular.
Erdogan added to this context with the words: “We are determined to expel from Syria the centers of evil that are aimed at our national security. In the coming period, we will continue our uncompromising fight against bloody terrorist organizations. It must be clearly understood that in the future of our region there is no place for separatist terrorism and Tel Rifat and Manbij have become hotbeds of terror, and in fact, it’s time to clear out these harbors where terrorist organizations are hiding.
President Ibrahim Raisi, whose country is also fighting Kurdish terrorism, stressed that in order to ensure the security of the two countries of Iran and Turkey and the security of the borders, it is necessary to fight terrorism.
In general, the trio: Raisi, Erdogan and Putin, came to an agreement on ensuring the territorial integrity of Syria and resuming the dialogue within Syria.
Putin noted the importance of the political dialogue of all parties to the crisis in Syria and the support of these forces by Russia, Iran and Turkey: “Taking concrete measures to promote inter-Syrian inclusive dialogue, which is the task of the three countries in the near future.”
In the background
Tehran did not fail to take advantage of the status of the owner of the house and the US sanctions pressure on all three countries. The speeches of the Iranian leaders were full of accusations and curses against the US and Israel.
“One of the causes of discord and enmity in the region is the usurping Zionist regime, which is also supported by America,” said the spiritual leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Erdogan and Putin had to diplomatically dodge direct accusations against Washington. At the same time, all parties in a counter order called for solving their own problems through dialogue. Russia wanted to resume dialogue on the Iranian nuclear program, Iran called on Russia and Ukraine for a peaceful dialogue, Russia and Iran tried to persuade Erdogan not to invade Syria.
All other calls and statements regarding strengthening economic ties, increasing trade turnover were of an auxiliary nature, which was supposed to give shine to the regional union of the three countries.
Following Patrushev’s steps
In 2017-18, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Paturshev visited Baku three times. It was the time of a multi-vector operation in Syria to neutralize ISIS and the opening of a humanitarian corridor by Turkey for refugees and militants who laid down their arms. Moscow was worried about the possible illegal return (leakage) home of militants from the CIS countries who fought in the ranks of ISIS. Azerbaijan could become one of the potential seepage routes. During these meetings, Baku guaranteed increased control at the border. The visit of the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Sergei Naryshkin, to Baku on July 19 takes place when another anti-terrorist decision on Syria is being made in Tehran.
In the near future, we may witness the beginning of the process of transferring northern Syria to the control of Damascus, the disarmament of opposition military detachments by force or in peace, and the beginning of a dialogue within Syria. The latter will not happen so quickly, but it becomes inevitable.