In Istanbul, Russia, Turkey, Germany and France urge maintaining and strengthening the ceasefire in Idlib, hoping for a "political solution" to end the conflict. The main challenge is drafting a new constitution and holding new elections, as well as the future of President Assad. Washington warns Moscow that it cannot be replaced in the Middle East.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Syria summit held on Saturday in Istanbul saw Turkey, Russia, France and Great Britain call for maintaining the ceasefire in Idlib.
The leaders of the four countries urged international community and the parties involved to find a "political solution" to end a conflict that has lasted for more than seven years and killed up to half a million people.
The final statement "stressed the importance of a lasting ceasefire" whilst asserting their “determination to fight against terrorism”.
Russia’s Putin, Merkel’s Germany, France’s Macron and Turkey’s Erdoğan noted “progress” in demilitarising the Idlib area, in northwestern Syria, which separates Syrian government troops from local rebel groups.
The note goes on to highlight the leaders’ commitment to "working together" to “to create conditions for peace and stability in Syria, encourage a political solution and strengthen international consensus in that regard.”
They express hope that elections will enable the Syrian people to decide on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, whose present and future role in the country has proven a stumbling block for UN peace efforts.
The four leaders note that the way must be paved “for free and fair elections under the UN supervision and in compliance with the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate”.
They also called for “establishing and early convening, considering the circumstances, by the end of the year of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva that would achieve the constitutional reform”.
Equally, they underscored the need to ensure “unhindered access throughout Syria and immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need”.
Meanwhile, in Idlib Governorate tensions remain high. Recently, airstrikes by government planes left seven people dead, the highest number in a single day since a truce went into effect in mid-September thanks to a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey.
The Turkish military yesterday targeted US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria, bombing positions held by of People's Protection Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, west of Kobane.
The latest peace efforts in Turkey still have to overcome another major obstacle, namely two other major players: Iran and, above all, the United States.
It is no mystery that Washington is still critical of Moscow’s role and growing influence in Syria. Over the week-end in fact, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis said that “Russia's presence in the region cannot replace the long-standing, enduring, and transparent US commitment to the Middle East.”