THE TENTH MEETING ON SYRIA: FROM THE WAR TO THE PEACE

The tenth meeting on Syria in the Astana format, held in Sochi, culminated in the approval of the humanitarian agenda for further negotiations. In the course of it, the emphasis on military issues was shifted to aspects of the political settlement and reconstruction of the Arab Republic. The guarantor countries – Russia, Iran and Turkey – taking into account the qualitative change of the situation “on the ground”, agreed to work together on the return of Syrian refugees to their places of permanent residence and to assist the parties of the conflict in exchanging missing and dead lists.
In fact, three issues were discussed at this round of consultations: the fate of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, the formation of a constitutional committee and the solution of the refugee problem. The final statement was that with the liberation of East Guta, Homs, and now southern Syria from terrorists, the last problem point on the map was only Idlib, where militants refused to hand over.
In the near future, there will be no assault of the city or an offensive operation, but the terrorists were advised not to show any activity: any sally will be severely suppressed. Humanitarian corridor was organized in order to put out the Syrian refugees from Idlib.
It is worth noting that during the meeting the rhetoric of the oppositionists softened considerably. The head of the opposition delegation, Ahmed Tom, for example, thanked Russia for improving the situation in Syria. Apparently, the military progress made the opposition and its foreign sponsors more compliant and prone to compromises.
An important result of the talks was the fact that the Turkish side insisted on including in the final text of the joint statement the topic of the inadmissibility of “separatist aspirations” on Syrian territory, which is a clear signal for the Kurds.
The second most important topic for discussion was the theme of refugees. The initiative to organize the return of Syrian refugees belongs to Russia, but in the future other countries can join this task. The issue of refugees will become one of the main issues at the Russia-Turkey-France-Germany summit in Istanbul on September 7. European countries can play an important role in the financial support of this work. Although it is too early to talk about a multilateral separate document on refugees, practical work will be coordinated at the level of special bodies. The raise of this topic by Moscow is connected with an attempt to play on this painful topic for Europeans with the goal of putting them at the negotiating table on refugees. Involvement of the EU to the work on the return of the Syrian refugees is a complete fiasco of the international isolation of Russia.

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