(L to R) Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Assad regime Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad, and Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Moscow, Russia, May 10, 2023
The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Iran met their Assad regime counterpart on Wednesday in Moscow, in the highest-level talks among the quartet since the Syrian uprising of March 2011.
Russia, Turkey, and Iran convened in the “Astana process” in January 2017, ostensibly to pursue a resolution of the conflict. However, the talks made no advance as Russia and Iran supported the Assad regime’s attempts to crush opposition and regain territory, and as Turkey launched cross-border military operations to gain influence over mainly-Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
In recent weeks, as Bashar al-Assad has pursued “normalization” with Arab states — including talks with Saudi Arabia and the readmission of the regime to the Arab League last weekend — Russia, Turkey, and Iran each announced the possibility of a four-way meeting.
Little detail was offered on Wednesday over issues such as Turkey’s sphere of influence in northern Syria. The Assad regime has demanded the withdrawal of Turkish forces, but Ankara continues to support areas in northwest Syria held by anti-Assad groups as well as maintaining pressure on Kurdish-controlled areas in the northeast.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted after Wednesday’s meeting:
At Foreign Ministers’ quadripartite meeting on #Syria, stressed the need for:
– Cooperation in fight against terrorism,
– Working together to establish the basis for returns of Syrians,
– Taking political process in Syria forward,
– Protection of Syria’s territorial integrity. pic.twitter.com/5dbWO88r2u
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) May 10, 2023
The Assad regime’s Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad maintained the priority was the removal of all foreign militaries, including Turkey’s, from Syria. However, he said that “despite all the negatives of the past years, there is an opportunity” for Damascus and Ankara to work together.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also gave no detail, declaring a “positive and constructive atmosphere” and the task of a road map to improve relations between Turkey and the Assad regime.
Iran Foreign Minister Amir Amirabdollahian said the talks were “positive and a step forward”: “We will continue our efforts to make these talks a success.”
However, the Iran regime’s emphasis this morning is on its military support to the Assad regime, which it has propped up since 2011.
Hosting Assad regime counterpart Gen. Abdul Karim Mahmoud Ibrahim in Tehran on Wednesday, the chief of staff of Iran’s military, Maj.r Gen. Mohammad Baqeri proclaimed Assad’s army as “the important anti-Zionist resistance axis” in the region: “We will reinforce this axis in cooperation with each other, and will stand up together to the Zionist regime’s bullying.”
Iran Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani proclaimed, “Iran’s Defense Ministry stands ready to…help Syria rebuild and develop the infrastructure of its defense industry in the post-war era, as it stood by the Syrian armed forces during the fight against terrorism.