Sochi Trilateral talks agree on neutralising terrorists in Syria.

Russia has taken a leading role in solving the multitude of conflicts in Syria and pointing the country to a peaceable calm wherein Syrian refugees will be confident that coming home will yield safety and a reasonable opportunity to resume healthy family life.

by Micheal John | Editor

Trilateral Talks in Sochi, Russia - 14 February 2019The guarantors of the Astana process (ensemble of initiatives and plans to resolve the Syrian Civil War) for facilitating the Syrian peace settlement.  Here you see the three heads of state during the news conference following the meeting between the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Photo Credit: Kremlin

In Sochi, Russia, the 11th summit held by the guarantors of the Astana Process (ensemble of initiatives and plans to resolve the Syrian Civil War)  concluded yesterday.

While three heads of state held their own meetings, delegations from the guarantor states, Syrian parties, the government of Syria, the opposition and representatives of the United Nations worked on resolving issues.

The participating heads of state are  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia;  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey; and Rouhani Hassan, President of Iran.

There are difficult problems to solve and they are getting much attention.

Both Iran and Russia joined to stand firmly against Turkey’s narrative about dealing with threats to its people from across the Syrian border.

While Turkey points out that separatist Kurdish militants have infiltrated Syria’s Kurdish region just south of the Turkish border,  Iran and Russia strongly urge Turkey to accept their promises that the security of the border will be preserved by the coalition that Russia leads. They also told Turkey not to invade across the border without the express permission of Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Listening to the parties speaking, Mr. Putin and Mr. Rouhani, it seemed not so much by words but by the tone that al-Assad’s permission was as unlikely as an alien landing.

Russia Assumes an Admirable Leading Role

Clearly, Russia’s lead in this matter of global importance is a significantly calming piece of diplomacy. The interest and concerns of America are skillfully handled as well as those of the Kurdish militia units in Rojava.

Also America has sliced off a niche in the process which was to lead a coalition to put the Islamic State terrorists out of business in Syria. While the remnants of ISIS are substantial and scattered to the wind, their presence may well be a matter for Syrian law enforcement and not Militias or Armies. That of course is to the credit of US service men and women and the Kurdish land forces the US has trained and armed, notes several of  The RINJ Foundation  volunteer medical workers in three locations of the country.

“The Kurdish groups have fought effectively with the help of America to rid the region of ISIS-controlled pockets wherein the population has been hijacked, kidnapped, bullied and even in thousands of cases, slaughtered,” says one such doctor.

Even though Mr. al-Assad was not present, (as far as we know)  at the trilateral talks in Sochi, Russia, from the tone of Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Putin it would seem that Damascus holds the Kurdish people in Syria in great esteem and that they should be able to reconstitute their self-governance. The situation is fluid and nothing is cast in stone, however.

A reading of Mr. Putin’s remarks to the world as published 2019-02-14 18:20:0 from Sochi and set out below is instructive.

Consensus: Terrorists must be removed from Idlib.

The Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group of terrorists are widely reported as more violent and extreme than their sources of membership including al-Nursra, al-Quaeda and the Islamic State. Local observers confirm this to .

HTS rule over Idlib has created pandemonium for the international humanitarian community. Funds for the purchase of medicines have dried up because donors fear that the HTS is commandeering supplies. Those fears are apparently warranted.

Doctors and nurses in about four dozen medical facilities are starving, says Behar Abbassi, who recently returned from doing a medical-needs assessment in Yemen to help with an evacuation of medical staff and critical care patients in Idlib, Syria. The only health care that is reliably available to the public, says Ms. Abbasi is that offered from obscure, long-established practitioners who really aren’t taking on new patients for security concerns.

Behar Abbasi reports that the conditions in Idlib make the region unsafe for any normal citizen.

Since 2011, humanitarian workers in Syria have been chased all around the country by terrorists and the violence of war.

One of the most surprising things most observers of the current regional battles report is the large numbers of embattled civilians still living under oppressive conditions. When they emerge after their communities have been liberated by American and Kurdish forces, as has been happening often in the past week, they are both large in number and devastatingly impacted by trauma and lack of health care and nutritious food.

Feminine Perspective:

It is no less true for being obvious, terrorists must be removed from Idlib and all of Syria.

Comment: Iran

The presence of Iranian troops in Syria is most worrisome at this time. Iran is the “elephant in the room” and there is little value in ignoring that fact although it continues to be ignored that Iran’s presence in Syria with thunderous military assets is seen as a threat to Israel.  This is a recipe for disaster say a growing number of analysts.

Trilateral talks on Syria at Sochi, RUssiaThe guarantors of the Astana process (ensemble of initiatives and plans to resolve the Syrian Civil War) for facilitating the Syrian peace settlement.  Here you see the three heads of state during the news conference following the meeting between the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Photo Credit: Kremlin

Remarks of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, friends, Mr Rouhani, Mr Erdogan, ladies and gentlemen,Just now President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, President of Turkey Recep Erdogan and I have concluded very substantive talks on Syria. They were held in a constructive and business-like atmosphere. Let me note that our trilateral summits have become a regular occurrence. Today we have held the fourth. Such close coordination allows us to effectively organise efforts aimed at long-term normalisation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Together with our partners, we identified the key areas of further cooperation in the Syrian settlement process. The agreements we have reached are reflected in the final joint statement. It is very important that our three countries intend to strengthen cooperation as part of the Astana process that has proven its worth. We will continue to step up our efforts in fighting terrorism, promoting intra-Syrian dialogue and improving the humanitarian situation in Syria.

We have agreed to continue to hold regular expert meetings with the participation of delegations from the guarantor states, Syrian parties, the government, the opposition and representatives of the United Nations. We have agreed that the next, 12th round of consultations will be held in late March – early April in Astana.

The Astana troika maintains close contacts with regional stakeholders and international organisations. Some states have requested to be made part of the Astana format as observers. In this regard, we instructed our respective foreign ministers to work out a way to grant such status to them.

To reiterate, thanks to the major contribution by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, favourable conditions have been created for Syria to begin the process of peaceful reconstruction. We are convinced that durable stability in Syria can be achieved only by political and diplomatic means in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in strict compliance with the principles of unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country.

It is our common opinion that only the Syrians themselves should determine the future of their country. There is no other way to resolve the crisis in Syria. It was in this vein that we considered issues related to promoting the intra-Syrian political process, and agreed to work together to facilitate the early launch of the Constitutional Committee, which is designed to address the fundamental aspects of the future state structure of the Syrian Arab Republic. The candidates for membership have been largely agreed by the Syrian government and the opposition. Now, it is necessary to approve the list of the committee members and develop regulations on the key parameters of its functioning.

It is believed that the success of the political process in Syria will help further normalise relations between Damascus and the Arab countries, restore the republic’s membership in the Arab League and serve the interests of security and stability in the Middle East in general.

During the talks, the troika leaders reiterated that neutralising terrorist groups in Syria is a top priority. In this regard, they discussed ways of implementing the Russian-Turkish memorandum on the Idlib de-escalation zone. Notably, our Iranian and Turkish colleagues are willing to work together in order to ease tensions and stabilise the situation in Idlib. We have agreed to take additional steps in this regard. We believe that maintaining the efforts to put an end to hostilities should not be detrimental to the efforts to combat terrorism. To reiterate, creating the Idlib de-escalation zone is a temporary measure. Aggressive raids by militants should not go unpunished.

During the talks, we also discussed how the plans announced by the US to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria will affect developments in Syria. It is our common opinion that these steps will play a positive role and help stabilise the situation in this region of Syria, which should eventually come under the legitimate government’s control.

Much attention was paid to providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and facilitating the return of refugees. The Astana troika is doing a lot in this regard. With our overall support, Syria can now accommodate up to 1.5 million people. The government has provided firm guarantees of a non-discriminatory approach to all those who wish to return home.

However, in order to radically improve the state of affairs in Syria, to solve acute social problems and to rebuild the economy, there is need for joint efforts by the entire international community. We call on all stakeholders and international organisations, primarily the UN, to step up their assistance to Syria as it tries to restore peaceful life and deal with the aftereffects of the hostilities.

In closing, I would like to sincerely thank our Iranian and Turkish partners, President Rouhani and President Erdogan, for today’s substantive and productive talks. I am confident that the results of the summit will promote productive work in the interest of establishing peace and stabilising the situation in Syria.