Alwaght- At a time the virtual diplomacy has taken the place of diplomatic visits globally due to the coronavirus outbreak, Russia, Iran, and Turkey held the sixth Astana meeting on Syria through videoconference on Wednesday.
So far, five rounds of talks among the presidents of the three countries were held. Iran was scheduled to host the sixth one but spread of the coronavirus made the organizers to hold it virtually.
The talks were initiated in January 2017 following an agreement by Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara to discuss the crisis in the Arab country for a solution to the nearly a decade civil war fueled by foreign-backed terrorist militias.
The three countries managed to decrease the conflict in the country through accords on de-escalation zones, fighting terrorism, preventing Syria partition, forming constitution change commission, bringing the refugees back home, and arranging prisoner swaps between Damascus and the armed opposition.
Idlib-centered virtual meeting of presidents
The talks between the presidents of the three countries as the key foreign players in the Syrian conflict scene come while a confrontation between the central Syrian governments, backed by its allies, and the Turkish-supported militants is brewing.
Over the past weeks, the Syrian army and its allies strengthened their positions around Idlib, the last key stronghold of the terrorist fighters. At the same time, Russia began to deploy to the Syrian armed forces heavy weaponry, including several batches of modernized Mig-29 fighter jets. On the other side, there have been reports of Turkish deployment of artillery and forces to Idlib on a daily basis. All these developments appears to be carrying signs a new conflict is about to start in the northwestern Syrian province.
The Syrian government’s push to uproot armed groups in Idlib and extend its rule over the province is being backed by Tehran and other Axis of Resistance elements. Meanwhile, the Turkish-Russian agreement over idlib in September last year has failed as Turkey declined to disarm, as it promised under the deal, the terrorist controlling Idlib. This is preparing the ground for differences among the Astana initiative brokers.
In such unclear conditions, apparently the Idlib status is a top issue of discussion of the presidents. Iran and Russia insisted on Turkish commitment to disarmament of the terrorists. Also, they discussed humanitarian aids to the refugees fleeing Idlib to the Turkish borders. All in all, Idlib takes a center stage in the trio’s negotiations.
US Caesar Act a blockade ahead of Syrian stability and reconstruction
Also the leaders condemned the US Caesar Act which bans business with the Syrian governments. They said they will seek ways to prevent the effects of the unprecedented sanctions on Syria.
The sanctions ban any trade or transactions with Syria by any individual or organization across the world, while currently and as the war is heading to an end the Syrian governments is seeking ways to raise funds to rebuild the country as the 9-year war left much of it severely devastated. This will also help return of the refugees to the country.
Initial estimations put the costs of reconstruction of Syria at $200 billion to $1 trillion. Meanwhile, Russia, Iran, and China are the top Syrian government’s priority for reconstruction partnership. The American act is exactly designed to check this cooperation to get Syria back on the track. Making progress in the reconstruction agenda normally can lead one of the region’s top hot spots to calm. But Caesar Act will challenge part of the efforts to rebuild the war-torn country.
The ban, from an aspect, is bad for Turkey. Through three operations, Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, and Peace Spring, Turkey over the past four years managed to occupy parts of Syria’s north. Its long-term plan is to change the demographic makeup of these parts to confront the “threats” by the Syrian Kurdish forces, labeled terrorists by Ankara. To push with this project, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey requested for finances from the European countries to help rebuild Syrian northern regions. But Caesar Act will block such aids to Turkey.
Also, Russia and Iran called for the Israeli regime to end its airstrikes on Syrian targets. They said that this Israeli hostility cannot continue. Over the past years, Israeli fighters jets have launched several attacks on not just military places but also scientific sites and labs in the capital Damascus and other Syrian cities.
All in all, the trio’s recent meeting was an effort to prevent intensification of the crisis and return to diplomacy to end the devastating conflict.