Turkey announced a meeting in August that will be a “trilateral summit” between Ankara, Tehran and Moscow. This is the latest in numerous meetings the three countries have had on Syria that began with a ceasefire in 2016. It also reflects growing influence for Russia and its ability to try to keep the Syrian crises from escalating while working closely with Turkey on military deals.
The latest summit was announced by Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and it is supposed to focus on tensions in Idlib, where Turkish backed Free Syrian Army rebels have been facing off against the Syrian regime.There are also numerous extremist fighters in Idlib, many linked to Al-Qaeda. A US airstrike on June 30 targeted Al Qaeda in northern Syria. Turkey has been backing the Syrian rebels for years, but since 2016 it has played an increasing role in Syria, eventually taking over Afrin and setting up observation points in Idlib. Syrian regime forces and Turkish forces have recently exchanged fire near an observation point, leading to concerns there could be a wider war.
Russia doesn’t want that. It wants to deliver its S-400 air defense to Turkey and also keep the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in power and in control. Turkey appears to be working on the Iran-Russia summit and another summit with Russia, Germany and French officials in September. That would be a game changer for Ankara’s prestige and role in Syria and the region.
Oddly, Iran’s Tasnim news reported earlier on Thursday that the meeting was scheduled for late July. The same report, apparently confused as to the date, said the final details of the meeting had not been arranged. This seems to show that Iran’s media is behind the curve and that Turkey has played a more central role. Syrian state media and Russian news agency Tass did not report the upcoming meeting Thursday.
Previous summits took place in February 2019 in Sochi, September 2018 in Tehran, November 2017 in Sochi, April 2018 in Turkey, and of the foreign ministers of the three countries in April 2019 in Kazakhstan. In the past, these discussions have achieved important discussions of ceasefires and a kind of road map for ending the eight-year Syrian Civil War. However the next meeting also comes amid Turkey-US tensions and also tensions between Israel and Iran over Syria, and the US and Iran. Russia, Turkey and Iran therefore have many things in common in difficult relationships with Washington. That means they may increasingly see eye to eye on Syria even if Russia and Iran are on one side of the Syrian conflict and Turkey ostensibly on the other. All of them oppose the US role in eastern Syria.