Turkey urges guarantors of Astana to ‘accelerate political process’
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
In a tripartite meeting with the Russian and Iranian presidents, Turkey urged an “acceleration of the political process” in Syria, particularly the forming of a committee to write a new constitution for the country as part of an attempted solution to the long-running war in the country.
Syria has not conveyed a list of participants to the U.N. envoy for constitutional committee on Syria’s new charter, but Turkey has urged Russia and Iran to use their leverage to pressure Damascus, a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
“The regime is not eager [to move on]. The regime has maintained its control in Eastern Ghouta. Whenever one of the parties advances on the field, the regime delays talks,” the official said.
Participants at the Sochi congress, a centerpiece of diplomatic efforts by Damascus’ ally Russia to end the war, agreed on Jan. 30 to set up the constitutional committee in Geneva and to hold democratic elections in Syria.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said at Sochi that he would decide the criteria for committee members and select around 50 people from government, opposition and independent groups.
Iranian reservations about Turkish troops
At the tripartite meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani raised objections about the presence of Turkish troops in the northern Syrian district of Afrin, captured in the recent “Operation Olive Branch.”
The Turkish official said Ankara briefed the meeting about the objectives of the operation and stressed that the Free Syrian Army would ultimately take full control of the security of the region.
“Iran understands our security efforts. They have an approach of seeking coordination with the regime as much as possible. What they want is to maximize legitimacy of the regime,” said the official, adding that Ankara and Tehran “do not have problems regarding rapport on the field and cooperation through the Astana process.”
At the tripartite meeting, Ankara reportedly also warned Russia and Iran that Syria’s Tal Rifaat should not be “a safe haven” for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), stressing that this would pose a security threat to Turkey due to the proximity of the region to Turkish border.
The official, meanwhile, said Turkey was carrying out a role for evacuations from rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.
“There is contact with groups on the field so the evacuations can be carried out properly. We are coordinating with the opposition groups represented in Astana. We do not prefer to take the evacuees to the Euphrates Shield region, but in a very difficult situation exceptions can be made if the individual is a patient or injured. More of them are gathered in Idlib,” said the official.
The Foreign Ministry official also stated that the Turkey-U.S. working group meeting on Manbij was “on hold” until new U.S. secretary of state takes office, but other working groups can gather beforehand to discuss the issues of the movement of Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen and detained US citizens in Turkey.