American experts on Syria disturbed by Sochi summit

Turkey, Russia and Iran's in detail discussions to find a solution to the Syrian civil war in Sochi may discomfort those whose policies only aim to deepen the crisis

Wednesday was an important day in terms of the resolution of the Syrian civil war. The Turkish, Iranian and Russian heads of state met in Sochi. In the final declaration from the trilateral summit, it was announced that “their commitment to the Syrian Arab Republic’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity were confirmed,” and the need to bring the Syrian crisis to an end through a political resolution was also mentioned.

Don’t worry about the fact that the German Bild newspaper put out the headline, “der Gipfel der Schande” (Summit of Shame). For them, any initiative and any influence lost is a matter of shame. The possibility of ending the deaths, cruelty, migration and poverty in Syria does not interest them very much.

The fact that this crisis will not end suddenly, with just a flick of the finger, is something everyone agrees on. What the parties can’t agree on is whether the crisis should be ended or not. While some actors are working hard to end the war soon, others are expending effort to deepen it as much as possible. The actors that came together in Sochi and who propose solutions for the Syrian civil war as guarantor countries, while not having identical solutions, are for the immediate resolution to the war.

Until today, the steps taken by these three countries, first in discussions and later on the ground in Syria, have rendered positive results. I am persuaded that the reason why these three guarantor countries could come together at the table was because they each evaluated the territorial integrity of Syria as their red line.

Moving off of this common ground, the Astana talks began and as an extension of this process, de-escalation zone agreements were signed by these three countries. In the context of this agreement, cease-fires were declared in critical areas in Syria, and this situation sped up the progress against the Daesh terrorist organization.

The main actor to abuse this process was the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD enlarged its area of dominance in Syria through the logistical and political support it got from the U.S. Going back on its initial promises, it settled in areas cleared of Daesh and took over the administration of those areas. Establishing administrative councils in areas such as Manbij, Tal Abyad, and Raqqa – where the Arab population is larger – the PYD’s People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia appropriated the local population’s property and forced them to migrate. By engaging in a kind of demographic engineering, it brought its sympathizers to the new areas it had occupied. And of course, all of this occurred under the eye of the U.S.

The PYD’s presence and operations in Syria is a red line for Turkey. In fact, after the summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointed to the PYD and said, “The elimination of terrorist organizations from the process is among our priorities.”

We are also facing a new situation now. Following the convergence between Turkey and Iran following the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, we cannot think that Iran is not supporting Turkey in limiting the PYD’s presence in Syria.

Another important aspect of the Sochi summit was the detailed examination of the issues that deepen the crisis on the ground. In this context, there were positive steps that were agreed on related to freeing those incarcerated and detainees, the return of remains and the identification of missing persons. Alongside this, it was agreed that the joint efforts to ensure swift, secure, and continuous humanitarian aid to this area would be continued.

Additionally, the three presidents called on the international community and asked that they “support the process by sending additional aid to the Syrian people, easing the process of de-mining, protecting historical heritage and social and economic facilities, as well as helping to re-establish the fundamental infrastructure of Syria and thus help with decreasing the tension in Syria and establishing stability once again.”

Now let us come to how the U.S. regards the Syrian civil war. The U.S. is not actually present. It has its proxy, the PYD and its YPG. The traditional arm of the U.S. that is leading its Middle East policy continues to display an attitude to deepen the crisis rather than its resolution. It is working not for the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity but on the contrary, for the de jure application of the de facto separation that is occurring. It is sad, but true.

[Daily Sabah, 23 November 2017]

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