It is no doubt that the Syria issue has been on the global agenda for the last six years. There have been attempts at peace talks by the UN since 2012 yet nothing has brought an expected solid solution. Recently, however with Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia and Iran, new promising steps have been taken to put an end to this bloody conflict. The results of the last meetings were the Astana peace talks held in Kazakh capital on January 23-24.
The importance of diplomacy
Turkey has experienced a rough time regarding its relations with Russia for almost a year following the downing of the Russian jet on the Turkish-Syrian border. However, after making some initiatives to normalize the ties with Russia, both countries underwent a rapid process of reconciliation with significant achievements in terms of military, trade and energy deals during the last few months. Definitively, the most important of all were the bilateral meetings, which were held both in an overt and covert fashion, to end the Syrian civil war. Iran also gave its full support to these meetings to show its goodwill to strengthen this newly formed alliance and to indicate that they are ready to participate and be a part of the international arena. They first accomplished the evacuation of the civilians in Aleppo who were lacking humanitarian aid. The trio held the first official meeting to help settle the situation in Syria in Moscow on December 20, 2016. With the approval of the United Nations Security Council regarding this Moscow agreement, an inclusive ceasefire in Syria and the political process started on the last day of 2016. The next step was to maintain their draft and continue the peace talks without any interruptions.
What makes Astana talks different?
Astana peace talks was a great success at bringing the armed opposition, Syrian regime, Iran, Russia and Turkey altogether to the table for the first time in an international meeting to help negotiate and settle the conflict. It was noteworthy to see the wide attendance of the armed opposition whereas only political opposition used to partake in such assemblies. It was remarkable to see the cards in front of the participants were named as “Syrian Arab Republic” instead of “government” or “opposition. It was Turkey that convinced these opposition groups to come to the table as a result of a series of meetings in Ankara. The groups who did not participate in Astana meetings were also adhering to the 31st December ceasefire. The ultimate aim of these talks was to extend the ceasefire and find solutions to end the civil war. The exclusion of PYD was important both because it is affiliated with the PKK that the UN that the UN and Turkey consider as terrorists and they would not gain legitimacy to their erroneous claims that they are representing the Kurds. As a matter of fact, PYD has leverage on Kurds only by means of armed forces.
Outcomes of the Astana talks
Astana talks ended with the announcement of the trilateral mechanism to supervise the ceasefire to guarantee all parties’ commitment to Syria truce and prevent possible violations of ceasefire. The three guarantors “express their conviction that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be solved though a political process.” They also stated their desire to support the willingness of the armed opposition groups to take part in the Geneva talks on February 8. They also swore their commitment to protecting the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria as a democratic country. Additionally, Staffan de Mistura said that it was not a time to terminate another ceasefire process but it was “the time for the international community in all its dimensions to come together and support one integrated political negotiating process.” Aleksandr Lavrentiev, the head of the Russian delegation in Astana, said that the trilateral operative group to monitor the ceasefire would begin to work actively in February.
The future of Syria
Bringing Syria back on its feet again following a long civil war is an important phase for the region. The decision of whether to keep Assad in charge or make him leave should be up to Syrian citizens themselves by democratic elections. Hence, it would be wise to form a transitional technocrat government, which does not oppress anyone or any ideas. This should be a liberal government, which embraces all the sects of Islam, Christians, Jews and even unbelievers. New Syria should be devoid of any guns or bombs and their future should be left to the hands of the Syrian people themselves.
How to attain peace in the region
It would be wrong to believe a permanent peace agreement may come overnight. For example, after the Korean War and with no signed official deal; a permanent accord was signed nearly two years following the ceasefire in World War I; it took months to sign Daytona agreement in Bosnia War. Yet, Turkey, Russia and Iran have strived very hard to come this far and achieved important results in this peace process in such a short time. They are indicating their willingness to end this bloodshed in the region whereas some politicians or media org anizations display these peace talks as vain and negative to sabotage their solid steps. However, these countries will not be deceived by such provocations as they devoted themselves into fulfilling this important mission. This is a major trial for everyone involved in this process and they should never give up working in unity to finalize the resolution. With this strong determination, Turkey in alliance with Russia and Iran have the power to bring peace to other countries in crisis such as Iraq and Yemen.
Adnan Oktar's piece in The Jakarta Post: