Russia, Turkey and Iran meet in Ankara in search of agreement on Syria

Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani will be present. The United States towards disengagement; imminent troop withdrawal. Analysts and experts emphasize the absence of Syrians. The government offensive in eastern Ghouta continues, evacuation of the last rebel enclave begins.


Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey will meet tomorrow in Ankara, for the second three-way summit on Syria.  The talks will involve the three main protagonists in the conflict, also considering the growing disengagement of the United States.

An anomalous three-way alliance, made up of Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani and host Recep Tayyip Erodgan, long opposed to each other in the Middle Eastern chessboard and which today show a "surprising" unity of purpose.

This second meeting on Turkish soil follows the first summit among the three leaders held last November in Sochi, Russia, which was not without major points of contention and criticism, including the recent offensive launched by Ankara against the Kurdish militias (protagonists in the past against the Islamic State) in the region of Afrin, in the north of Syria.

Analysts and experts agree that the three countries are now the real actors in the Syrian conflict, not least because US President Donald Trump spoke of an "imminent" withdrawal of troops from the Arab country. Last year the three countries promoted peace talks in Astana as an alternative to the UN meetings in Geneva, cementing their alliance.

Russia has substantial control of the skies in Syria, while Iran has a strong and rooted presence on the ground, both thanks to the presence of its own militias and through foreign fighters. At the same time Erdogan also increased Turkish influence in the country, conquering portions of territory along the border.

However, there are doubts about the feasibility of a long-term alliance between the three nations, in the past in constant war with each other for the control of the region around the Black Sea. Moreover, they remain on opposite sides in the context of the Syrian conflict: Russia and Iran allies of Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey is close to rebel groups (and jihadists) who are fighting for the expulsion of the president.

Syrian expert of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Jennifer Cafarella, describes Erdogan's relationship with Russia and Iran as an "alignment of convenience". It will last "the time necessary to achieve its goals" of victory against the Kurdish militias.

However, these diplomatic and military efforts for the end of the war in its eighth year do not foresee the presence of the main actors (and victims) of this conflict: the Syrians.

Meanwhile, the troops of Damascus continue their offensive in the Eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of the capital that has long been under siege by the government army. The soldiers of President Assad now control almost the entire territory; in these hours the evacuation operations have begun of the last town still in the hands of the rebel groups. The government media reported that, at the weekend, the first members of the Jaysh al-Islam militia left Douma aboard a northbound bus to Jarablus.

At least 1600 people have died since the beginning of the government offensive, thousands have been wounded. According to state media 629 fighters, along with family members, would have left Douma aboard 12 vehicles, passing through the al-Wafideen checkpoint.

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