As US President Donald Trump mulls whether or not to pull his troops out of Syria, Russia, Iran & Turkey have re-emphasised their commitment to a peaceful solution to the country’s war at a summit in Ankara. Sputnik spoke to professor of international relations at Marmara University Emre Ersen.
Sputnik: So what were the main decisions and conclusions made at the summit this week between Russia, Iran & Turkey?
Emre Ersen: The importance of yesterday’s meeting is that it is taking place at a time when the three countries simultaneously have significant problems in there relations with the Western community. President Trump’s policies against Iran are well known already, and at the same time because of the poisoning of the spy crisis in the United Kingdom, Russia is also having a hard time with the West, with the expulsion of the diplomats etc. Turkey is actually the closet country in this group to the Western community, but at the same time because of Syria and the US’ support to the YPG it is also having significant problems there. So I think the main importance of this meeting is that these three leaders are coming together to send a strong message to the West that signify their solidarity regarding Syria. So it is a working relationship on the ground, but on the other hand I think these bilateral problems with the US also make this meeting more important.
Apart from that, I don’t think they really gave exceptional messages regarding Syria; their positions have not really changed so much. Even the maintenance of this political dialogue on the ground in Syria is very important because we are talking about the three most influential countries on the Syrian battleground.
Sputnik: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani implicitly pointed the finger of blame for Syria at the US and Israel during the conference. He argued that they have “spread chaos” in the country, what do you make of this accusation?
Emre Ersen: Well that is not surprising either, because we know that currently that Iran’s greatest concern is the changing United States foreign policy in the Middle East and its close cooperation with Israel, but also Saudi Arabia. With both countries, Iran has significant problems, so I think Iran, considering that it’s actually an isolated country by the international community, despite the nuclear deal reached with Rouhani a few years ago. I think he actually made use of this platform really well. It is a significant international platform, the meeting that took place yesterday, and I think he actually used this as a significant political platform to send this message to the West. I’m not sure if Turkey and Russia share this message. Of course they also have some critical stances against Saudi Arabia and Israel in Syria. However at the same time they also have some kind of a dialogue with both countries.
So this is probably one of the issues that separate Iran from Turkey and Russia but again I think we have to regard this meeting as some kind of message sent in the diplomatic field to the West. Each leader used this as a significant opportunity to underline their own foreign policy priorities in world politics. This is exactly what Rouhani tried to do, in my opinion.
Sputnik: Finally, we’ve seen President Trump change positions on Syria over the past few days, partly due to the pressure of his National Security team and incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who want the US to keep boots on the ground there. How do you see this ambivalent policy impacting upon chances for unity in Syria?
Emre Ersen: This is partly one of the main problems in the United States’ foreign policy. I think many countries, including Turkey; this is the reason why they don’t really understand what’s going on in the Unites States’ official foreign policy. We are talking about Trump’s own position, he talked about withdrawing from Syria now that the Daesh threat has been eliminated but at the same time the people who really make the decisions seem to be the military people. For Turkey, For Russia, and For Iran, I think this is actually sending some contradictory messages because now some people actually in Turkey see this as another important incentive to get closer to Russia and Iran because the United States will not be staying there.
However on the hand, because of this difference between the president and his staff in Syria some people in Turkey believe that this is also another indication that the US support for the YPG is going to continue. This is quite problematic because for Turkey the YPG is an extension of the PKK, which is a terrorist organisation. In that regard nowadays the talks between Turkey and United States are also continuing regarding the situation in Manbij. So Turkey doesn’t really know with which actor it needs to deal – the Trump administration or the other people, especially the Ministry of Defence. So it is actually confusing for all three countries. I think this is also something that weakens the United States’ position in Syria because they are not speaking with one voice. All of these different voices are I think quite problematic for the consistency of the United States’ intentions and foreign policy in Syria.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.