The President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met in Ankara, Turkey, to decide the fate of Idlib – the last Syrian province held by anti-government rebels. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on the other hand, was not part of the negotiations.
Turkish news agency Anadolu published a video with Putin and Erdogan silently shaking their hands. Russian propagandists, in turn, named the summit as "the end of the war".
In August, the Turkish spokesperson announced that the summit would discuss the constitutional committee and further political processes.
At the same time, different allegiances served as a sticking point of the Ankara summit. Russia and Iran aided the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey joined the Western allies in its support of the rebels. It is worth noting, however, that Erdogan has not always agreed with Washington – particularly in the Kurdish case. He also stated that the summit is meant to establish a ceasefire and stop the Idlib migration to Turkey.
Bashar al-Assad, in turn, received Russian military aid and gained nearly entire control of the country. In recent months, the Syrian government was attacking Idlib, a province where radical Islamists are fighting moderate rebels. On Sunday, Assad's forces shelled the south of Idlib.
Two years ago, Turkey set up twelve military observation posts to reduce clashes between the Syrian government and the rebels. As a result, Turkish forces were caught in a crossfire. On Friday, Erdogan warned Damascus that the attacks on observation posts would "draw things in very different directions", meaning possible confrontation.
Moreover, the summit took place after Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi movement launched drone attacks against two of the Saudi Aramco oil facilities – American ally in the region. While the US blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran dismissed American accusations as "pointless".
In August, Erdogan and Putin met in Moscow. The Turkish leader stated the Syrian governmental army was a threat to Turkey’s national security. Erdogan is also afraid of potential 3.6 million Syrian refugees, who might cross the border if there is a battle for Idlib. Many locals found shelter in the territories held by the rebels. To secure Western aid, Erdogan threatens "to open gate" for refugees to Europe if the West fails to provide Turkey with more support to handle the situation.
Conclusions of the summit
All three leaders affirmed that the constitutional process is the only option to handle the crisis, agreeing to form a Syrian Constitutional Committee. They also stressed that it is unacceptable to divide a country into different spheres of influence. Rouhani accused the US of splitting Syria and requested Washington to back out of the country. He also noted that the Golan Hights were rendered to Israeli "occupants" without agreeing with Syria. At the same time, Rouhani highlighted the necessity of fighting the terrorists in Syria.
Putin, in turn, stated that the Astana process participants support Syrian sovereignty and integrity. The country shall be rebuilt after the terrorists are terminated. The countries, however, have not reached a decision on Russian-Turkish-Iranian military operation in Idlib. Vladimir Putin has also accused some external forces that might influence the constitutional process in Syria. According to Russia’s leader, the US military presence in Syria is unlawful.
Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan have all expressed their support to Yemen and underlined the necessity to rebuild the country after all sides reach a peace agreement. The leaders also supported Yemen’s right "to answer the bombing of their country" in light of the drone attack on Saudi Aramco.
"Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defense ... the attacks were a reciprocal response to aggression against Yemen for years," Rouhani noted.
Putin, in turn, proposed Saudis to buy its S-400 missile systems.