Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, who was visiting Iran, said on Wednesday, July 20 that his country welcomed the joint statement issued at the end of Astana peace summit a day earlier which talked against all kinds of external aggression in his country. During his meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Amir Abdollahian Mekdad noted that “we are against any interference of Turkey in Syrian lands and establishment of any settlements and attempts of Turkification of Syria.”
On Tuesday, during the first day of his two-day visit to Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the summit of the Astana format or peace process in Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi.
After the summit meeting, the three leaders issued a joint statement declaring that there is no military solution in Syria and warned against any such attempts. They also extended their support to a Syria-led peace process in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 2254 adopted in 2015.
Turkish president Erdogan had proclaimed in June that his country’s forces will invade northern Syria and will create a 30 kilometers deep “security zone” to prevent forces affiliated to Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) from carrying out “terrorist” attacks inside Turkey. In Tehran, he struck a similar tone, vowing to eradicate “hotbeds to terror.” Erdogan’s plan has been widely condemned as a bid to appease domestic sentiments ahead of elections.
Joint statement of Astana summit
The summit of the countries participating in the Astana process, the seventh such since 2017 when it was first formed to coordinate their moves in war-ravaged Syria, took place after a gap of two years. The last summit was held virtually in July 2020.
The joint statement also condemned repeated Israeli aggression inside Syria and the looting of Syrian resources, particularly the theft of oil by the occupying US forces that have unilaterally created a military base in al-Tanf in south-western Syria in the name of fighting ISIS.
Iran, Turkey and Russia also rejected all unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and the European Union, claiming they violate the UN charter and international humanitarian laws. They also demanded the withdrawal of all US troops from Syria and cessation of all external aggression, including the Israeli air strikes inside the country.
The statement expressed “unwavering commitment” to Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and rejected all “attempts to create new realities on the ground” including “illegitimate self-rule initiatives.” The joint declaration also opposed “separatist agendas” threatening the territorial integrity of Syria and the national security of neighboring countries.
Though the majority of the territory in Syria is now under the control of the Bashar al-Asad government, a part is still divided into regions controlled by different armed groups, some of them claiming to run autonomous administrations.
The participants of the Astana process also agreed to maintain the status quo in Idlib and implement agreements over its status signed in the past between Russia, Turkey and the Syrian government. Idlib is the last major stronghold of the Turkish-backed anti-Assad forces.
Acknowledging the need for international humanitarian help in Syria, the Astana process encouraged the UN and other international agencies to “increase their assistance to all Syrians” without discrimination, politicization and preconditions and in a more transparent manner.”
The UN recently voted to extend the supply of aid to Idlib for the next six months. An initial proposal to extend aid by one year was opposed by Russia on the grounds that it violates Syrian sovereignty by bypassing government authorities.
Iran shares Russian concerns about NATO expansion
On Tuesday, Putin met Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and discussed the Ukraine war and the prospects for improvements in bilateral relations. The talks ranged from increasing bilateral trade and gradually replacing the US dollar as the medium of exchange.
A USD 40 billion cooperation deal in the oil sector was announced between Russian Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) on the same day. According to the strategic cooperation agreement, Gazprom will help NIOC develop some oil fields and in the construction of gas export pipelines.
During his meeting with Putin, Khamenei expressed support for the Russian position on NATO expansion, claiming that though Iran opposes the effects of the war, “in the case of Ukraine, however, if you [Russia] had not taken the initiative, the opposite side would have caused [the outbreak] of war with its own initiative,” Press Tv reported.
Both Iran and Russia are looking forward to signing a 20-year strategic partnership deal and are already on the verge of completing the North-South transport corridor which links Russia with India via Azerbaijan and Iran.
During the meeting, Putin claimed that Russia never wanted the war in Ukraine but the “West’s behavior has left us with no other option than to react.” Putin also accused European countries of toeing the US line and compromising regional stability.
Both Iran and Russia repeated their appeal to Turkey to refrain from attacks inside Syria, claiming that such a move will destabilize the region.