Press Perspectives on the Astana Talks: Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Syria
CEM BURGAZ- The Astana Talks, held in Astana on June 20-21, have garnered extensive coverage from various news sources, shedding light on the negotiations involving Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Syria. In this article, we thoroughly examine the press perspectives surrounding the Astana Talks, analyzing the diverse viewpoints and assessing the significance of these negotiations in the context of the Syrian conflict. By closely scrutinizing the media coverage, we gain valuable insights into the intricacies and implications of the talks among the key stakeholders involved.
The 20th round of negotiations among Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Syria, known as the Astana Talks, took place in Astana on June 20-21. The primary objective of these talks was to find a resolution to the Syrian conflict. The parties involved expressed satisfaction with the progress made during the negotiation process and highlighted positive developments towards achieving a solution.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan released a statement regarding the 20th round, considering it a significant milestone and nearly successful culmination after seven years of negotiations. They emphasized Syria's emergence from isolation and its reintegration into the "Arab family" as a sign of success.
Aibek Smadiyarov, the spokesperson for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, pointed to Syria's recent re-entry into the Arab League and efforts to restore ties with Turkey as evidence that the Astana Talks have fulfilled their purpose.
Alexander Lavrentyev, the Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Syria and the head of Moscow's delegation at the talks, expressed complete surprise at Kazakhstan's decision.
It is worth noting that the announcement caught participants off guard, necessitating changes to the previously prepared statement, which had already confirmed the 21st meeting would take place in Astana.
Alexander Lavrentyev, the Russian Federation's representative, unofficially disclosed that a new location for the negotiations is being planned, but the essence of the talks remains unchanged. Possible meeting places mentioned by Russian diplomats include Ankara, Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus. As reported by the Chinese news agency "Cinkhua," the parties agreed that a new meeting will take place in the second half of 2023, highlighting the success of the "Astana process" and Kazakhstan's role in it.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Russian President, cautioned against excessive optimism and expectations from the Astana Talks on the Syrian settlement. He emphasized that the path to a resolution is still long, with only a portion of it covered so far, and Russia will continue its consistent approach.
Turkey, Russia, and Iran described the recent talks in Astana as "constructive" and reported discussions on "preparing the roadmap for the restoration of relations between Turkey and Syria."
On the other hand, Turkish media mostly underlined the “determination in working together to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” as well as stand against “separatist agendas” aimed at undermining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and threatening the national security of neighboring countries.
The parties “highlighted the need to fully implement all arrangements related to the north of Syria,” and condemned “the actions of countries supporting terrorist entities, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives in the northeast of Syria," said the public-run AA, highlighting the join statements “condemned the activities of terrorist groups and their affiliates operating under different names in various parts of Syria, including the attacks targeting civilian facilities and IDP camps which result in loss of innocent lives,” part.
Despite the majority of Russia's armed forces being engaged in Ukraine, Moscow has maintained a military presence in Syria and has been actively assisting Assad's government in regaining control over most parts of the country. Efforts to facilitate the mending of ties between Assad and Turkey, as well as other regional countries, have been ongoing.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Astana meeting, residents and a war monitor reported that Syrian government forces had shelled an opposition-held town in Aleppo province, resulting in the deaths of at least three individuals, including a child. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, indicated that the shelling also targeted other nearby towns controlled by the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group. Syrian state media did not report on the incident.
The New Arab reported that the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, claimed Russian aircraft conducted airstrikes near the opposition-held city of Idlib during the talks.
According to Tansim News Agency (Iran), Syria's representative, Ayman Sousan, highlighted that Turkey's statements about Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity contradict its ongoing occupation of Syrian territories, which violates international law and the fundamental principles of inter-state relations.
Throughout the years of conflict, Turkey played a prominent role in supporting militant factions against the Syrian government and carried out multiple military operations in Syria, resulting in territorial gains. However, Turkey has shown no urgency in withdrawing its troops from Syrian territory. In a May interview with CNN, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed the idea of withdrawal from northern Syria, implicitly disregarding Damascus' demands.
Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, citing sources at the Astana talks in Kazakhstan, reported that Moscow aims to foster closer ties with Ankara and Damascus. As a result, a timeline will be established to ensure the withdrawal of Turkish military forces from northern Syria.
Syria considers the presence of Turkish forces as occupation and calls for an end to Ankara's support for armed militants opposing Damascus. These conditions are crucial for making progress in the negotiations, as stipulated by Damascus.
The Astana Talks and the prospects of ending the conflict in Syria have been met with some skepticism by analysts. Despite ongoing military operations in Ukraine, Russia continues to maintain an armed presence in Syria.
Turkish armed forces also remain stationed in Syrian territory, citing the need to "fight against terrorism." Nevertheless, the participation of Turkey, Syria, Iran, Russia, official representatives, the United Nations, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syrian opposition observers in these negotiations gives hope for the possibility of maintaining a ceasefire, at least in the foreseeable future.