Turkey seeks political solution for Syria at four-way Istanbul summit
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The summit, hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Vahdettin Pavilion in the city's Üsküdar district, includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special Syria envoy, is also present at the summit.
"The eyes of the world are on us today... I hope we will act with a sincere and constructive understanding and will not fail to meet their expectations," Erdoğan said as he opened the summit in Istanbul.
After arriving in Istanbul, Macron tweeted that what was at stake was averting a "new humanitarian disaster."
Ankara will focus on finding new ways to reach a political solution in Syria, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Kalın told an international congress in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Oct. 26.
“Our priority at this summit will be focusing on the new ways that can be found; not a military solution, but a political one in Syria,” he said.
He stressed that Turkey would also push during the summit in Istanbul for the preservation of an agreement that set up a demilitarized zone around the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
Turkey initiated this gathering, which will be complementary along with the ongoing Astana and Sochi processes, in a bid to maintain peace and political solution in Syria, a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish side will exchange views on making a new charter for Syria, efforts to pave way for fair elections in the war-torn country, the return of displaced people, the Idlib deal between Turkey and Russia, developments in the Syrian city of Manbij and the issue of the YPG’s presence in northern Syria, the official added.
The idea emerged after some Western countries set up the “Small Group” on Syria, which includes Germany, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Jordan, the U.K. and the U.S.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had criticized the group earlier.
“This small group is envious about the steps we have taken in Astana and Sochi and are seeking an alternative. We can sense this from their statements. This is not reliable. There is no need for polarization if we want a political solution in Syria and want to fight against all terror organizations without making any distinction,” he said on Oct. 23.
Preparations for the summit had been made during a meeting in Istanbul on Sept. 14 with the participation of the foreign policy advisors of the four leaders.
Germany and France are careful not to give off an impression that they were taking sides in the Russia-U.S. strife regarding the issue of Syria, a Western diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, had said and noted that they don’t want the meeting to turn into an “anti-Trump” event.
Turkey, Russia and Iran are guarantors in the Astana Process, a deal which aimed for de-escalation zones in Syria in order to maintain a cease-fire. A Russian-led Sochi process also aims for a political settlement in the war-torn country.
An agreement on Idlib reached last month between Russia and Syria prevented a government offensive on the last rebel stronghold in the country.
Merkel earlier said the conflict in Syria had escalated to an enormous scale and cannot be settled without the participation of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Europe and other regional powers.