In a rare event in history, three non-Arab heads of state gather in a non-Arab capital to discuss the fate of a country that was considered the backbone of Arab states. Tripartite Astana (Turkey, Iran, Russia) met in Tehran yesterday at a summit that revealed deep differences between Turkey on the one hand and Russia and Iran on the other about the fate of the Syrian province of Idlib, that the Syrian regime threatens to launch a broad attack on which Ankara and the international community feared could lead to a humanitarian disaster involving tens of thousands of dead and millions of displaced. The summit was unable to control the whizzing of bullets and missiles in Idlib square , where the Russian and Syrian warplanes carried out more than 70 raids on the villages of Idlib and Hama during the meeting hours, killing and injuring more than 15 people, leaving a number of missing and hanging under the rubble.
In the midst of the military and security readiness of the Syrian regime and its allies of the Russians and Iranians to recover the city of Idlib from the Syrian military opposition and failure of the heads of Iran, Turkey and Russia Friday to overcome their differences, but agreed to continue to “cooperate” in order to find a solution to avoid loss of life in these Syria’s northwestern province, where Bashar al-Assad’s regime is mobilizing its forces in preparation for an imminent attack. Where the summit witnessed a debate between the Russian and Turkish presidents on the drafting of the final statement. Erdogan called for a “ceasefire”, warning of a “bloodbath” in the event of an attack on the province bordering his country . But Putin rejected the proposal, stressing that “there are no representatives of armed groups on the table” authorized to negotiate the truce, in the position Rohani supported it .
The summit, a large part of which was broadcast live, was a sharp and direct speech between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who has responded with unprecedented intensity to Erdogan’s demands in a development that reveals the differences between the two most important countries in the Astana path in Syria. In general , , the three presidents remained steadfast in their positions noting that Tehran and Moscow stressed the need to combat “terrorism” and the right of Damascus to regain control over its entire territory while Turkey, which supports fighters and accepts refugees from a “massacre” . Ruhani said when he received his counterpart “Fighting terrorism in Idlib is an essential part of the mission of restoring peace and stability to Syria,” and he added “But this must not be painful for civilians and not lead to scorched earth policy.” For his part, Putin, from his part said that “the legitimate Syrian government has the right to regain control of all its national territory, and it must do so.”
During the summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “At the Tehran summit on Friday, we made clear that methods that ignore the safety of Syrian civilians will have no benefit but serve the terrorists .Therefore, if the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people is ignored in order to serve the interests of the Syrian regime, we will not be partners and spectators in this game. ”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey “will not stand by and will not participate in such a game if the world turn a blind eye to the killing of tens of thousands to support the agenda of the Syrian regime.” He added ,in a series of Twitter tweets in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Russian and English languages after a trilateral summit with the presidents of Russia and Iran in Tehran, Erdogan said that “resorting to methods that underestimate the lives of civilians will serve the terrorists’ goals.” Adding if the world turned a blind eye about the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people to promote the interests of the regime , we will not stand idly by, and will not participate in such a game, “according to” Reuters. ”
Erdogan stressed the need to resolve the issue of “Idlib” Syrian, while adhering to the spirit of Astana, explaining: “The issue of Idlib should be resolved without new tragedies and tensions, and with commitment to the spirit of Astana.” “Maintaining the principles we agreed upon in Astana is also important in terms of finding a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis,” he said. The Turkish president expressed his rejection of the imposition of fait accompli, saying: “It is necessary not to impose the status quo in the arena under the guise of combating terrorism and opposing the separatist agendas, which aims to weaken the unity of Syrian territory and national security of neighboring countries,” noting that “Turkey has struggled from the beginning to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and to protect Syrian brothers without any discrimination.” “Today, as in the past, we do not want to hurt any of our Syrian brothers.”
It is worth mentioning here, and Idlib province is, which corresponds from the Turkish side the state of Hatay – the most important human reservoir of the Syrian opposition, and during the last period thousands of fighters and tens of thousands of civilians have displaced in agreements in the Reef -Damascus and Homs and Aleppo and others. In September, Idlib joined the areas of tension reduction in Syria under the Astana talks sponsored by Russia and Iran, another ally of the regime, and Turkey, which supports the opposition. Under the agreement , Turkey has 12 military positions in Idlib province.
As for Idlib’s position in the Turkish strategy, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said since a year ago that “it will not allow the establishment of a” terrorist corridor that starts from Afrin and extends to the Mediterranean Sea, “referring to the prevention of the establishment of a Kurdish entity on the southern Turkish border with Syria. This means to cut off the road in front of the Kurdish expansion and their aspiration to reach the Mediterranean sea noting that the Turkish strategy in Idlib is reflected in the construction of a corridor extending from Idlib to Izzaz in Aleppo to the Jenderees area of Afrin, as well as to surround the latter and put it under Turkish surveillance through military points in Idlib. And the consolidation of the role of Turkey in northern Syria and make it a powerful force in security, political and economic sides , as the area stretching from Grapes on the Euphrates to Idlib – which oversees the Syrian coast and geographically related to the province of Hama – will be under Turkish influence, and this gives great impetus to Turkish politics in the Syrian crisis during its extended stages.
That Turkey, which hosts nearly three million Syrian refugees, fears that the loss of Idlib will leave room for other players , Russia, Iran and even the Syrian regime to carry out the fight under the name of competing the terrorist organizations. this could open the door to the displacement of more than one million people to Turkey, while it believes that its control of Idlib will open the door for the return of displaced Syrians to their areas after securing. From the foregoing, it is noted that the Turkish position on the military operation in Idlib is governed by humanitarian and strategic considerations. Turkey’s loss of Idlib may have a security and humanitarian backlash on the Turkish side, which Turkey is trying to avoid as much as possible. Because the victory of Russia in Idlib will mean strengthening the role of Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria in the Arab and Middle Eastern environment.
Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies