Turkey, Russia, Iran ramp up efforts for peace in Syria

Turkey, Russia, Iran ramp up efforts for peace in Syria

An important turning point in the seven-year Syrian civil war was observed in Geneva on Dec. 18 as relentless efforts of United Nations’ Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura made a significant progress for the establishment of a council tasked to write a new constitution for Syria.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif attended the meeting, along with representatives from the Syrian regime, the opposition and members of the civil society.

Although the works failed to finalize the completion of the commission, diplomats predict it will soon be accomplished.

They also agree that setting up the highly anticipated council would make a historically important day for Syria as this move constitutes the most important concrete step in regards to reaching a political solution to the question.

Given that more than one million Syrians have been killed and around seven million have become refugees in neighboring countries amid the civil war since 2011, yesterday’s efforts are a breakthrough.

As the guarantor countries of the Astana Process, Turkey, Russia and Iran obviously deserve credit for this achievement. These three countries first came together in January 2017 under the Astana Process at a time when the U.N.-led Geneva Process had already proven that wasn’t going anywhere in terms of providing the necessary conditions to end the armed conflict.

Led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, the Astana Process first helped reduce the violence especially in western Syria and then sought to launch a political process for a breakthrough.

Agreements on establishing security zones in different parts of Syria and avoiding a massive Syrian operation against jihadists in Idlib province are just a few results the Astana Process yielded in the last two years.

In addition, Turkey’s insistence in linking the Astana Process with the Geneva Process so that the required settlement could be implemented in line with the 2015-dated article 2254 of the U.N. Security Council provided an internationally approved transparent road map for the future of Syria.

Negotiations for the formation of the council lasted until the last minute as de Mistura coordinated the talks between all stakeholders to overcome difficulties. The Syrian regime, the opposition and the civil society are being represented each with 50 members in the Syrian national dialogue committee. The plan stipulates the formation of a group of 45 people out of the 150 so that each group can nominate 15 persons to the writing council.

The council will draft the constitution and will, thus, pave the way for fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive elections in Syria so that the Syrian people will choose who will run the country.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. The road ahead is still full of problems and requires more commitment than ever. But it offers a very big opportunity not only for Syria and for the region. Many problems the European countries are facing today, like terrorism and migration, are stemming from the quagmire of Syria.

That’s why Europeans should be much more engaged with this process and the guarantor countries. A summit that brought Turkey, Russia, Germany and France in Istanbul early October could be introduced as an ideal base to this end. At the end of the day, the reconstruction and normalization of Syria will require billions of euros, which could only be delivered with the participation of the European Union and European countries.

Yesterday’s development could be well described as the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian civil war with the genuine shift from a war paradigm towards a peace paradigm.

Geneva talks, Syrian War, Diplomacy