The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey met Saturday in Istanbul to discuss the current situation in Syria. The discussion has been followed by a joint communique. The leaders also commented on key points discussed during the meeting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron met Saturday at Vahdettin pavilion in Istanbul to discuss recent developments in Syria. Following the discussion, the four presented a joint statement, which was read by Erdogan.
“The negotiations went in a business atmosphere,” Putin commented after the meeting. “The joint communique reflects the intention of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France to further extend cooperation in order to normalize the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, to launch an intra-Syrian dialogue and to conduct the necessary reforms and changes.”
Chancellor Merkel also praised the productiveness of the meeting.
“We might have our differences but we have made an agreement and we have released a joint declaration, pointing out the fact that we have a strong and a common will,” she told reporters.
Future of Syria is in the Hands of the People
“Syrians must determine the future of their country themselves,” Putin said. He underscored that the summit participants have not discussed the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“We have not discussed any personalities,” Putin said. “This is counterproductive if we want to reach a positive result in the end of our way.”
Erdogan made a similar, if slightly different, statement.
“The fate of President Assad should be decided by the Syrian people. We want the Syrian people to answer the question of how to carry on in the world,” he said.
Merkel called for the Syrian people to decide their fate.
“We must advance with the political process at the end of which there must be free elections open to all Syrians — including those in the diaspora,” Merkel said.
In the meantime, the four leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Total Defeat of Terrorists
In a joint statement adopted at the end of the talks in Istanbul, the four nations “stressed the importance of a lasting ceasefire, while underlining the necessity to continue to fight against terrorism.”
Following the press conference, Macron urged Russia to “pressure” the Syrian government to bring about a “stable and lasting ceasefire in Idlib.”
“We rely on Russia to exercise very clear pressure on the regime which depends on it for survival,” Macron said.
The Russian president said that Syria’s liberation from terrorists is almost complete. He underscored that the terrorists’ defeat must be total and final and that Russia reserves its right to help Assad destroy the terrorist threat should armed provocations continue.
“We cannot let the bandits with battle experience continue their criminal activity, create ‘sleeper cells’ in our countries, to recruit new members and to propagate extremist ideology and terror,” Putin said.
“Should radical elements try to prevent the solution of this task by conducting armed provocations from the Idlib zone, Russia reserves its right to offer active support to Syrian government actions aimed to eliminate this terror threat source,” he added.
Putin praised the creation of a demilitarized zone in Idlib, but underscored that this is a temporary measure.
“We expect the Turkish side to ensure the withdrawal of the opposition, heavy weapons and the military from the DMZ,” he said, adding that Ankara is fulfilling their obligations.
“This work is underway. Turkish partners are fulfilling their obligations, although not everything has been done in full. We see that this is a difficult job and we intend to continue to cooperate with Turkey in this area,” he said.
The joint statement also called for a committee to be established to draft Syria’s post-war constitution before the end of the year, “paving the way for free and fair elections” in the war-torn country.
All four leaders stated that they believe the new Syrian Constitutional Committee must meet for the first time before the end of this year.
“We expect that before the end of this year, if corresponding conditions are met, the Constitutional Committee would be completely agreed upon and functioning,” Putin said.
“The Committee must be acknowledged as legitimate by all Syrian sides and enjoy their respect,” Putin said.
Turkish President Erdogan outlined the issue of Syrian refugees, noting that Turkey alone accommodated an estimated 3.5 million Syrians, spending the equivalent of some $33 million to do so. Erdogan called upon the European Union to fulfill its obligations on financial aid to Ankara and to increase that aid, in view of the upcoming winter.
Putin offered to discuss the refugees issue at an international conference.
“We offered our partners [the opportunity] to support the Russian initiative to call an international conference on Syrian refugees,” he said.
“We understand everything connected to this, all the problems, but if we don’t work together, we won’t achieve any results,” he added.
“In order to significantly improve the situation in the country, remove sharp social issues, restore the economy, collective efforts of the entire international community are needed,” the Russian president added.
Chancellor Merkel outlined a precondition for the return of Syrian refugees, that being a guarantee that refugees will not be prosecuted by Ankara.
“From our point of view, it is necessary that there be assurances that there will not be persecution or arrests, that certain fundamental humanitarian conditions are fulfilled — that a certain humanitarian infrastructure is there,” she said.
“The Syrian government has provided hard guarantees of safety and non-discriminatory attitude to all who want to return to their homely hearths,” Putin commented.
According to Putin, Syria now can accommodate up to 1.5 million refugees.
The joint statement also spoke of “the need to ensure humanitarian organizations’ rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria and immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need.”
While this was the first time that the four leaders have met in this format, it is unclear whether such meetings will become regular.
“We have not discussed it, but everything is possible,” Putin said.
Putin added that he may see fit to increase the number of parties in the format, offering to call for Tehran to join.
“I believe that increasing the number of participants of the peaceful settlement process is beneficial,” Putin said. “We, undeniably, should conduct full-fledged consultations with the Syrian government, as well as with other partners in Iran, who is, as we know, a guarantor nation of the peace process.”
Putin: Russia Reserves Right to Help Damascus Contain Terror Threat in Idlib
ISTANBUL (Sputnik) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday his country will take active steps if terrorists use the Idlib demilitarized zone as a cover to launch attacks on the rest of Syria.
“Should radicals … launch armed provocations from the Idlib zone, Russia reserves the right to give active assistance to the Syrian government in liquidating this source of terrorist threat,” the Russian President vowed during a summit on Syria in Istanbul.
He also proposed an initiative to hold an international conference to solve the problem of Syrian refugees.
“We offered partners to support the Russian initiative of convening an international conference on Syrian refugees. We understand what is linked to this issue, we understand the problems, but if we don’t work together, we won’t achieve any results,” Putin said following the quadrilateral talks on the Syrian settlement.
According to the Russian president, the parties agreed to broaden the concept of “humanitarian aid” and to understand it as “supply of medical equipment, medicines, restoration of infrastructure and water supply.”Addressing the upcoming setup of the Syrian constitutional committee, Putin said that constitutional reform would strengthen statehood and unite the Syrian society.
“First of all, it is necessary to ensure the launch of the activities of the constitutional committee in Geneva, which is intended to consider the fundamental issues of the future state system of Syria. At the same time, decisions taken at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi should be taken into account,” he said after talks with the leaders of Turkey, France, and Germany in Istanbul.
He stressed that such a committee should be recognized as legitimate by all parties in Syria and be respected.
“Only in this case, this structure will be efficient and effective, it will be able to prepare and implement a mature constitutional reform that will strengthen Syrian statehood and unite Syrian society. So, the work on forming a committee must be serious, painstaking, and it needs to be done fundamentally. Russia, as a guarantor of the Astana process, will actively participate in it,” the Russian leader continued.
Russia hopes that by the end of the year, the Constitutional Committee of Syria will be approved and will work, Putin said, stressing that the work on the creation of the committee should be conducted with respect to the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, otherwise it would be counterproductive.There is progress in the creation of a constitutional committee of Syria, but patience is needed, the Russian president added.
“You said that 9 months after the decision in Sochi we didn’t achieve a specific result. I want to remind you that before the start of the Astana process, the parties didn’t meet at all for a year. This process simply stalled,” Putin recalled.
According to the president, “nothing happened at all” over that period. Then, as he noted, the Astana process was initiated, and “the wheel began to spin on and on.”
“Yes, the agreements reached are not being implemented as quickly as we would like, but there is still some progress. We managed to persuade the Syrian government to submit its part of the list for the formation of a constitutional committee. This is not an easy process, yes, there must be people who are trusted by all parties involved in the conflict. But we need patience and respect for all participants in the process. Only on this path will we succeed,” he said.
The Russian leader also underlined that only the Syrian people can decide for themselves.
“Our principled position is that the fate of our own country, including the choice of personalities on the political scene, should be determined by the Syrian people themselves,” he said after talks with the leaders of Turkey, France and Germany in Istanbul.
He noted that certain conditions must be created for this, one of which is the launch of the political process to form a constitutional committee and the beginning of its work. Participants of the summit in Istanbul did not discuss any personalities regarding the Syrian leader, since this is counterproductive, the president added.
On Saturday, Putin, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a joint statement in Istanbul following a meeting dedicated to the Syrian crisis and other international problems.In January this year, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in Sochi. Its main result was the decision to establish a constitutional commission that will work in Geneva.
Common ground on Syria: What France, Germany, Turkey & Russia agreed on in Istanbul
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hosted the talks, was joined by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and France’s Emmanuel Macron, as well as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Following the summit, the four leaders held a joint press conference and released a communique, highlighting what common ground they had found during the four-way talks.
- Only political solution for Syria
The leaders have “expressed their support for an inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process that is facilitated by the United Nations.”
- Need to start work on constitution in Geneva
A committee set to draft a new constitution for Syria should begin its work as soon as possible, preferably before the end of this year.
- No to division of Syria
Syria must continue to exist within its pre-war borders. Any separatist movements or desires of foreign powers to occupy parts of the country are therefore firmly rejected.
- Keep ceasefire & defeat terrorists
The four countries have expressed their support for the Idlib ceasefire deal, brokered earlier by Russia and Turkey. At the same time, they emphasized the importance of fighting terrorism and condemned the usage of chemical weapons.
- Boost humanitarian aid
The United Nations and other international organizations should bolster aid deliveries to the war-torn country. “Swift, safe and unhindered” flow of humanitarian aid will provide much needed relief to the sufferings of the Syrian people.
- Help return of refugees
The four leaders stressed the importance of “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to Syria. To facilitate the process, appropriate housing and social care facilities must be constructed in the country.
- Internationally-observed elections
The ultimate goal of the political settlement process is holding transparent, internationally-observed elections, the statement reads. All Syrians, including those who had to flee the country, must be able to participate.
*All posts on behalf of Sputnik News are made by Gordon Duff and Jim W. Dean