Russian envoy holds talks in Ankara twice in one week
Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria, met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on May 31, in the second visit of the special envoy to Turkey within one week.
Lavrentiev met with Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın in Ankara last week after paying a visit to Syria.
The meetings come on the eve of the second gathering of the Russia-initiated Sochi Congress. A Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in the Russian city of Sochi on Jan. 30 and participants made the call for the establishment of the constitutional committee and the selection of a pool of 150 candidates for this committee, which has not been realized yet due to Syrian regime’s reluctance.
Russia also stepped up a political process to end the Syrian crisis and Putin held a rare meeting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on May 17 and said the “military success” in Syria allowed for a large-scale “political process” leading to the withdrawal of foreign forces and the reconstruction of the country.
“After the success of the Syrian government army in the fight against the terrorists” the conditions are in place for “the start of a political process on a major scale,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin following the meeting.
“With the start of the political process in its most active phase, foreign armed forces will withdraw from Syrian territory,” Putin said, without specifying which foreign forces.
In a statement from the Syrian presidency, al-Assad added on May 17 that “we have evaluated the political process” and will select candidates for a constitutional committee that will work with the United Nations, a suggestion proposed in January at a summit in Sochi.
On the heels of Russian and Syrian presidents’ meeting, Lavrentiev brought forward the need to withdraw foreign troops from Syria had implied Iranian forces and Hezbollah militia fighters as well as Turkish and American troops.
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support not only ensured the survival of al-Assad’s regime but also changed the course of the war.
The latest round of Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana wrapped up on May 15, but did not make any concrete progress toward ending the seven-year conflict that has cost 350,000 lives.
Russia, Iran and Turkey have been attempting to resolve the conflict in the talks that started last year in Astana in competition with a U.S. and U.N.-backed Geneva initiative.