Turkey hosts critical summit on Syria with Russia, Iran

The presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia meet on 04 April 2018 for their second tripartite summit in under six months, aiming to speed the peace process for Syria and bolster their influence in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani in Ankara for a meeting that could have a critical bearing on developments in Syria.

The meeting will be the second such tripartite summit after the first hosted by Putin in November in the Black Sea city of Sochi and will be a new symbol of the increasingly deep cooperation. The three powers have backed peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana which they argue are a parallel process to support UN-supported discussions in Geneva.

Experts say that Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have quite different interests but have for now decided to team up to take advantage of the waning Western influence in Syria. Last year, the powers agreed to set up “de-escalation areas” in western Idlib province, north of Homs province, parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces in southern Syria and Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, which has come under heavy bombardment.

Cooperation between the three in Syria “may break down at some point”, Teoman warned, while issues between Moscow and Turkey could come to the fore over Idlib. Turkey is keen to prevent a Russia-backed regime assault on the province home to around 2.5 million people who analysts say would have few places to flee after having already fled areas like Ghouta and Aleppo.

More than 340,000 people have been killed since the war began following anti-government protests in 2011, while millions have been internally displaced or forced to flee. Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees and Ankara is keen to avoid a further influx ahead of 2019 elections and also wants to install some refugees in safe zones inside Syria.

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