This summit brings together the major players in the war in Syria, Moscow and Tehran supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Ankara supporting the rebels.
Iran reiterated on Tuesday its opposition to a Turkish offensive in northern Syria, ahead of a summit bringing together the Iranian, Russian and Turkish presidents in Tehran for talks focused mainly on the conflict in Syria, but also on the war in Ukraine. .
This is the first summit chaired by Ebrahim Raisi since he came to power a year ago and Vladimir Putin’s second trip abroad since the launch of his offensive in Ukraine on February 24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for discussions with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts on the conflict in Syria, but also on the war in Ukraine. Iranian state television showed live images of the arrival of the Russian head of state, on the occasion of his second trip abroad since the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24.
A “harmful” military operation
The tripartite meeting comes days after US President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East, where he visited Israel, Iran’s number one enemy, and Saudi Arabia, its powerful regional rival. It will be essentially dominated by Syria where Russia, Turkey and Iran represent major players in the war that has ravaged the country since 2011, Moscow and Tehran supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Ankara supporting rebels. The three countries launched the so-called Astana process in 2017, officially aimed at bringing peace to Syria.
Arrived Monday evening in Tehran, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was received Tuesday morning by his Iranian counterpart in the palace of Saadabad, in the north of the Iranian capital. Later in the day, the Turkish head of state and his delegation met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to state television. Ali Khamenei reiterated his country’s opposition to a possible Turkish military operation in Syria, deeming it “prejudicial” for the region, according to a statement issued after the meeting.
“A military offensive (against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, editor’s note) will definitely be detrimental to Syria, Turkey and the region,” he said. However, the Supreme Leader assured Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Iran will “cooperate” with Turkey in its “fight against terrorism”, while stressing that “terrorists are not limited to a specific group”.
A big problem”
Turkey, which is seeking to create a 30-kilometre “safe zone” on the border with Syria, hopes to get the green light from Iran and Russia for an armed intervention in the northwest of the country. The Turkish army, present in areas of northern Syrian territory bordering Turkey, launched between 2016 and 2019 with the help of Syrian auxiliaries three major operations in Syria.
She wants to launch a new operation against two localities under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia accused by Turkey of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – classified as terrorist by Ankara. These groups “are indeed a big problem for” Iran and Turkey and “we must fight against these terrorist organizations in solidarity and alliance”, indicated for his part Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference. in Tehran.
Ukraine and nuclear
The tripartite summit will be an opportunity for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to meet with Vladimir Putin for the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, a member of NATO, has tried to maintain contact with the two countries, offering to mediate on several occasions. The two leaders will talk in Tehran about mechanisms to allow exports through safe maritime corridors of grain from Ukraine, blocked in this country by the Russian military offensive at the risk of causing a world food crisis.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that a “final document” will be ready shortly to allow the export of grain from Ukraine. The agreement negotiated through the UN aims to bring out through the Black Sea some 20 million tonnes of grain blocked in Ukrainian silos because of the Russian offensive. The Iranian-Russian talks will also touch on the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, experts say.
A security pact
Russia is taking part in talks that began more than a year ago between Iran and the major powers to revive the 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, allowing the lifting of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities. Thursday, during his trip to Israel, Joe Biden signed a security pact with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid committing the United States to never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
And on Saturday, in Saudi Arabia, Joe Biden affirmed before an audience of Arab leaders that his country “would not turn away” from the Middle East by leaving “a void that could be filled by China, Russia or Iran”. Remarks condemned by Tehran, which accuses Washington of fueling tensions in the region.