Is anyone safe in Idlib?

Published 10.09.2018 21:50

The trilateral summit of Turkey, Russia and Iran couldn't yield any concrete plans for the start of a peace process and fell short of changing anything in the Idlib conflict

All eyes were on the Turkey-Russia-Iran trilateral summit in Tehran Friday. The summit was held to find a peaceful solution to the Syria issue. Experts and journalists were curious about what kind of decision would be made in Tehran. And most likely for the first time, the whole world was able to watch a major summit on live TV. Even though the carefully written speeches of the leaders gave the feeling that "ties may break" from time to time, the impression that "the cease-fire will continue" signaled that the process is still ongoing.

However, the expectations were not entirely met. The bloody process and deep problems in Syria's Idlib were somewhat postponed, but did not become clear. Nothing was resolved because Russia and Iran did not take clear stances on the issue, a requirement of the Astana process. During the summit, Russia and Iran prioritized the approval of Bashar Assad's sovereignty rather than the requirements of the Astana peace talks.

Moreover, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani explicitly mentioned "terrorists," stipulating that the Syrian opposition should lay down their arms. So, the matter went beyond terrorist organizations like Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and included reasonable opposition like the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This means that things will be a bit tenser, and the possibility of yet another refugee wave has not disappeared either. As a result, Turkey must once again raise awareness of the issue globally, especially in discussions with the European Union. This is because future challenges will concern not only Turkey, but also the EU.

An interesting point in the summit was the U.S. presence in the eastern side of the Euphrates, something President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan underlined insistently. He spoke openly and clearly about the issue: "While we and the rest of the world are focusing on Idlib, dangerous events are taking place near the eastern side of the Euphrates. Although the Daesh threat and danger has disappeared, we are disturbed by the fact that the U.S. is supporting another terrorist organization there. It has sent nearly 3,000 cargo planes to the region and provided help, clearly showing how much this terrorist organization has gained strength."

"This situation disturbs not only our national security, but also the territorial integrity of Syria. We must adopt a united stance," Erdoğan added.

In short, the Tehran summit did not put an end to the Idlib question but only suspended it temporarily. The coming process depends on Turkey's efforts concerning Idlib, its inclusion of the EU in the process and the start of a political process under the United Nations. Unless the broad Syrian opposition joins the process, it seems things will not change in Syria.

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