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Putin Continues to Sideline US Influence in Syria With Russia-Iran-Turkey Peace Talks

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Turkey continues to drift out of NATO's orbit. Earlier this week, a trilateral summit took place in Ankara between Presidents Putin, Erdogan, and Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Before Putin arrived, the Russians delivered and order of S-400 surface-to-air missiles to the Turks.

During the talks, the leaders discussed how to wrap up the war in Syria and how to speed up the return of Syrian refugees from camps in Turkey.


It's not acceptable to divide Syria into zones of influence, while de-escalation zones shouldn't serve as staging grounds for provocations. That's what Vladimir Putin stated just now in Ankara where the trilateral summit Russia-Turkey-Iran is being held. The three countries agree that security issues should be solved on the principles of preservation of sovereignty and territorial integrity. It's the fifth meeting in this format, and it's highly possible that it'll become the key one. 

Alexey Petrov's reporting.

Everyone in Ankara is getting prepared to the big political day: both soldiers of the honor guard and the protocol service. Vladimir Putin flew to Turkey immediately after Russia completed the supply of S-400 systems to this country. Because of the White House's pressure, Turkey, being a NATO country, will now hardly be able to buy F-35s and Patriot systems, but the relationship with Moscow is much more important to Ankara.

Vladimir Putin's motorcade is entering the yard of the Presidential Complex in Ankara. This is the start of major negotiations, which are being attentively watched in many different capitals around the world. The journalists are following the presidents' every step. In the press center, the monitors feature both the programs of Turkish TV-channels and Vesti. President Erdoğan, as the host of the summit, personally greeted Vladimir Putin on the porch. A long handshake is an indication of a long conversation to follow.

On the sidelines, people are already actively talking. Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov doesn't need an interpreter. President of Turkey Erdoğan set the mood for the meeting.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “The Astana format for the reconciliation of the Syrian conflict provides very effective methods. We are the only platform for completing these tasks.”

The joint effort has already helped stabilize the situation in the country. The main thing now is to launch the political process. The composition of the Constitutional Committee has almost been set, as Putin notes. But the fight against terrorism should not go on the backburner. The fighters have become more active in Idlib, and actions are to be taken urgently.

Vladimir Putin: “The de-escalation zone should not remain an asylum for extremists of various kinds and particularly neither should it serve as a staging ground for conducting armed provocations. Dear colleagues, together, we should take additional steps to completely eliminate the terrorist threat that is coming from the Idlib zone.”

Syria shouldn't be divided into zones of influence, Putin emphasizes. He also notes that, thanks to the joint effort within the Astana process, those who had to flee the war are returning to the country.

Vladimir Putin: “Since June of 2018, over 390,000 refugees have returned to Syria, as about 1,300,000 internal migrants could return home as well. We hope to see the international community participating more actively in the humanitarian assistance to Syria, providing more considerable help in the restoration of the infrastructure that was ruined by the war, including water and electricity supply, schools, and hospitals. Naturally, such support should be provided for all Syrians, without any discrimination, politicization, or preconditions.”

Iranian President Rouhani emphasized that the most important thing is observing international norms, which is obviously not something self-evident for the United States.

President Rouhani: “The illegal presence of the Americans troops on Syrian land jeopardizes its territorial integrity. The U.S. president said last year that he decided to withdraw his troops from Syria, but the outcome of this speech was the same as that of any other of his speeches. These are statements that weren't true in the past and that are not supported by willpower in the future.”

In Ankara, the Russian president is holding bilateral meetings as well. Erdoğan invites Putin to his work office and moves aside the notebooks that had been prepared beforehand. Instead of an hour, as planned, the conversation took almost two and a half hours. They did have things to discuss.

Vladimir Putin: “Last year, we achieved considerable results regarding the commodity trade: over $25 billion worth of commodity trade. This year, it's a little less, unfortunately. We believe that it happened because, among other things, certain restrictionist measures by our Turkish partners regarding products of the Russian metallurgic industry, as well as those of the chemical industry, namely fertilizers. We'd like our Turkish friends to pay their attention to this, to pay more attention to this during negotiation with their Russian partners.”

Turkey is trying to appear hospitable to the leaders. At the same time, the hospitality goes hand in hand with strict security measures. For example, there is an armored vehicle at the gates of the Çankaya Palace. This place is connected to the name of the first Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as it was he who chose this palace to be his residence in 1921. However, it's not history they are discussing today but rather, the present. Before his meeting with Rouhani, Putin asked the delegations to hurry up.

Vladimir Putin: “Go, take your seats faster.”

Syria is in the focus again.

Vladimir Putin: “I'd like to distinguish Iran's role in the formation of the Constitutional Committee. I hope we've approached the final phase of this work. And, of course, I can't help but distinguish our mutual position regarding the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

President Rouhani: “I believe, in this crucial historical moment, when the Americans are demonstrating hegemonic aspirations while disrespecting international norms, our work with Russia is very important. As for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Iranian nuclear program, in the background of the USA attempting to ruin this deal, Russia might have a very important role to play in this format.”

The agenda includes the creation of the free-trade zone with Iran. All the procedures in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Community have been almost completed. A series of many-hour-long negotiations with the presidents of Turkey and Iran, and the discussion of the situation in Syria are evidence of the role played by Russia in this huge and complicated region. Moscow's main political asset is the trust of its partners, and meetings like this do nothing but strengthen the mutual understanding.

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