A trilateral summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran will be held in Sochi today. Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani will meet to discuss a new stage in the settlement of the Syrian crisis, which is coming due to the defeat of terrorist groups and the country's return to its internal political conflict. The head of the political research of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, Yuri Mavashev, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, told about the importance of this meeting for the Middle East and relations between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.
- Yuriy Yurievich, in your estimation, what directions of the Syrian settlement should the presidents discuss at this historic meeting?
- It is no exaggeration to say that already following the results of the Antalya consultative meeting of the foreign ministers, which became a prelude to today's summit, it was possible to work out a mutually acceptable formula on Syria's current and future stricture. We can state with confidence that the key disagreements existed since 2011 have been overcome with varying degrees of success, as evidenced by joint statements in a unified manner by the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran. Now, first of all, it's about the technical coordination of the aspects related to the functioning of de-escalation zones in Syria, which is final, I suppose, this is an urgent issue. The meeting of the presidents will be historic, because in 2011, when the civil war in Syria was just beginning, it was hard to imagine the current agreement between the sides - then the positions were diametrically opposed - at the same time, it is important to note that we have witnessed a systemic work of the parties for the past two years. The meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani should shed light on the future of Syria, we can also expect that the dates for holding the National Dialogue Congress will be announced, because this cannot be delayed any longer. Now it feels like that there is an intensification of the political process in Syria on all fronts, and time is of the essence. It also should be noted that the control over the Syrian borders was restored by the efforts of our three countries.
The Kurdish issue remains unresolved, and it is significant that we are witnessing a rapprochement of the positions of Russia, Turkey and Iran on this issue, which became possible due to Moscow's transition from a neutral position towards the Syrian Kurds to a greater understanding of the Turkish point of view. The Kurds seized a number of territories in the province of Deir ez-Zor, to which they are not related historically, including the seizure of oil fields, depriving Syria of the opportunity to be a self-sufficient state - it will be very difficult without resources for the country's ruined economy. At the same time, the transport infrastructure for pumping oil is in the hands of Bashar Assad, which is why it is not clear why the Kurds need these oil reserves, if they are not able to control the pipelines, it is like a suitcase without a handle. Now they can regret this step, as three states opposed their actions. Even with the support of the United States, I think that the Kurds have no special prospects if they do not agree with Russia, Turkey and Iran. The presence of similar points of view, including on the Kurdish issue, bring the positions of the parties closer to each other and give more chances that the meeting will be successful.
I think the foundation of the format and its successes was laid in August 2016, when the first meeting of the presidents of Russia and Turkey took place after the deterioration of relations between the countries. Just then it became clear that Russia, Turkey and Iran are together in Syria. I am convinced that, if it was not for this alliance and its common actions, the Syrian settlement would have achieved nothing that we have for today. Only the convergence of the positions of Russia, Iran and Turkey made it possible to achieve current results, not military, but political and humanitarian.
- In your estimation, at what stage is the Syrian settlement now, how close is peace?
- Relatively speaking, the prerequisites for peace in Syria have been created approximately by 75-80%, which is quite a lot, given that the peace in Syria should be provided by the Syrian people in the first place (whether the Syrian society will take advantage of this is another thing). The borders are not as transparent as before, the terrorists control only a few percent of the siezed territory, the last stronghold of the terrorist group Abu-Kemal was liberated with the support of our military security services. In the tactical sense ISIS was defeated. Of course, various terrorist cells will be active, they will manifest themselves, but we have reached a milestone, we have have come close to laying the foundation for the peaceful post-war arrangement of Syria, a new state in certain terms while maintaining its territorial integrity. We have done everything possible to do this, and I think we will do even more, regardless of who will be the leader in Syria. We are creating the basis that goes beyond any Syrian leadership, making some historical step, that is, the settlement of the Syrian crisis is not just a political, but a historical issue.
- What does this meeting mean for bilateral and multilateral relations between Russia, Turkey and Iran?
- For the first time in history, such powerful regional players as Turkey and Iran sit at the negotiating table, solving rather acute issues. The Iranian leadership has supported the Syrian government from the very beginning, and Turkey opposed it and actively assisted illegal armed groups. I think the fact that Syria has strengthened the bilateral cooperation of Turkey and Iran, as well as Turkey and Russia, can be considered the main result for our countries. The Syrian settlement helped to strengthen our contacts and bring them to a qualitatively new level. In essence, we are talking about obtaining invaluable experience within the borders of Eurasia.
For our Western partners, this is a bright signal of a world change. The world is becoming qualitatively different, countries understand that they no longer need a mediator, a dictation of a third party, that they are able to deal with the existing problems themselves. Our countries know how to resolve the Syrian crisis, taking into account respect for representatives of various faiths, while preserving the ethno-confessional balance, which is very important. Let me remind you that that as a result of the US actions in Iraq in 2003 the balance between Sunnis and Shiites was violated and ISIS emerged. Now we are extinguishing this fire and creating something new.
- What unites these three countries today except Syria?
- First of all, this is the Caucasus. In addition, everything that is happening in Central Asia is of interest to both Turkey and Iran, because both Sunnis and Shiites live there. The regional role of Turkey is increasing now, the country plans to enter the top ten of the world's leading economies by 2023, and it is clear that the state with population of 80 million people starts to extend its interests slightly further than the Middle East. I do not think that it is worth looking for a problem here, because this may be a new point of contact between Russia and Turkey in the future. I do not exclude that Russia and Turkey could jointly support some country, as the efforts of one Russia may not be enough. Speaking of the experience I have already mentioned, both Turkey and Iran have an understanding on Transcaucasia and Russia that an escalation of violence is fraught with danger for everyone, which means that it is necessary to negotiate, so if any new crisis situation arises in Transcaucasia, the experience of coordinated tripartite actions of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, obtained as part of the Syrian settlement, will be used. And we have a whole set of tools here.