It is reported widely in media that leaders of Turkey, Russia, Germany and France on Oct.27 expressed their determination to end bloodshed in war-torn Syria at the earliest.
Following a Syria summit in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron held a joint news conference reportedly calling on the international community to work hand in hand for a sustainable solution in Syria.
“We have discussed a political solution in line with Syrian people’s legitimate demands which moves to reach stability in the country,” Erdoğan told reporters. “Our aim is to reach a complete cease-fire to halt bloodshed,” he said, adding that the four nations agreed to increase cooperation among themselves and at the international level on the issue.
The leaders also called for the completion of the constitution committee’s process for establishing a Syrian constitution by the end of this year that would pave the way for an inclusive and fair election in the country which has borne the brunt of a devastating civil war since 2011 in which more than 360,000 people have been killed.
On the future of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the Turkish leader reiterated Ankara’s stance underlining that his fate should be decided by Syrian people rather than some “individuals”.
Stating the summit was “productive” and “sincere”, Erdogan said they had agreed that humanitarian aid should continue in order to alleviate suffering of the Syrian people. Syrian civilians and neighboring countries -- particularly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan -- had to shoulder the burden of distress arising from crisis in Syria for a long time, according to Erdogan.
Turkey is the top refugee host in the world welcoming around 3.5 million Syrians since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Erdogan said the main reason why the Syrian conflict became a global menace is “because the international community did not respond adequately”.
However, he said that many countries realized severity of the situation when the crises affected them, referring to the massive refugee influx to European states. He also urged the international community to “end indifference” regarding the conflict, calling for international support to increase efforts to find political solution as well as to improve situation on ground in Syria.
Referring to the Astana peace process -- brokered by Turkey Russia and Iran -- which ensures cease-fire and a de-escalation zone in Idlib, Erdoğan added that participation of France and Germany in the Astana process would develop the synergy for Syria’s solution.
It may be noted that Moscow and Ankara agreed on September 17, 2018 to create a 15-20 kilometre-wide demilitarized zone ringing Idlib as Turkey sought to avoid an attack leading to a further influx of people across the border.
The Syrian’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari maintained that the buffer zone would be temporary and that Idlib would eventually revert to government control. The Syrian opposition which has previously described Moscow’s intervention in 2015 as an “occupation”, reportedly welcomed the dialogue with Moscow.
He said that Iran, as one of the guarantor countries of the Astana process, would be briefed over the decisions taken in the Istanbul summit. “Astana peace process for Syrian conflict sets an example to international community,” he added.
Ankara is determined to continue efforts to find solution to Syrian issue on Astana platform as well as some other wider platforms in the international arena “like today’s summit in Istanbul,” he went on to assert.
“We agreed to increase cooperation among the four countries and at the international level” regarding the Syria peace negotiation, Erdoğan noted.
On Turkey’s effort to eliminate terrorists along its borders in northern Syria, Erdogan repeated Ankara’s determination for a possible counter-terror operation in east of the Euphrates River.
“We will continue to eliminate threats to national security in the east of Euphrates as well as in its west in Syria,” he said, referring to Turkey’s cross-border operations in Syria since 2016.
The “Astana Process” talks of 2017 was aimed to support the framework in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and ended on the 24th with an agreement between Iran, Russia, and Turkey to form a joint monitoring body to work to enforce the UN Resolution 2254 ceasefire in Syria.
In November, 2018, the Syrian government and rebel groups have swapped detainees in northern Syria, the Turkish foreign ministry said, describing it as a first step to build confidence between the fighting sides in the war-torn country.
The above action was part of a pilot project prepared by a working group formed under the so-called Astana process by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the United Nations to investigate the fate of missing people and release those who have been detained, the ministry said.
It did not specify how many people were involved in the swap, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said rebel factions had released 10 hostages in return for the government releasing 10 detainees.
It is reported that the aim is to maintain with new initiatives of this practice, which represents an important first step in terms of building confidence between the sides,”. Syrian state news agency SANA said nine men and one woman “were liberated” from the fighters who held them in the Aleppo countryside.
The Astana process has gradually come to eclipse a UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process whose participants include the United States and European powers that would be key donors in an international post-conflict reconstruction programme for Syria.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid, Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.