On April 4, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended a trilateral summit with his Turkish and Russian counterparts to discuss the path forward in Syria. As expected, the trip gained the attention of Iranian media and foreign policy analysts in Tehran.
This is the second trilateral summit for the three presidents. In November, Vladimir Putin hosted Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to discuss the Syrian issue.
Government-run newspaper Iran wrote April 4 that the trilateral meeting in Ankara is important due to “recent positive and negative developments in Syria,” including “[US President Donald] Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria,” “the disagreements between the governments of Syria and Turkey over the Turkish army’s movements in Afrin” and the eastern Ghouta issue.
Nosratollah Tajik, a former Iranian ambassador to Jordan, believes that the aim of the trilateral summit is primarily to coordinate positions for how to deal with future developments in Syria.
Tajik told the ILNA news agency April 4, “The outcome of the summit of Iran, Russia and Turkey in Ankara about Syria is expected to establish a new bloc to create a new order not only for Syria and its people, but also for the benefit of the countries of the region.” He added, “The first summit, which was held last November in Sochi, led to further consolidation of the Astana summit, which the United States isn’t pleased with."
Under the headline “The complexities of three neighbors’ meeting,” former Iranian diplomat Fereydoun Majlesi focused on the goals of Tehran, Moscow and Ankara, arguing in the Reformist Shargh daily April 4 that Turkey seeks a share of the Syrian market and is also interested in participating in the planned oil and natural gas pipeline running from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq and Syria. Majlesi also argued that Turkey wants to prevent the Kurds from having more power in Syria and deny Kurdistan Workers Party fighters a base in the country.
Addressing Iranian concerns and goals, Majlesi wrote that Tehran “seeks to have a share in the regional market following the return of calm to Syria and have access to the Mediterranean Sea, so it can take advantage of the connecting bridge between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.”
He added, “It is important for Iran that a political system like the regime of Saddam Hussein, which was under the destructive influence of Saudi Arabia, doesn’t come to exist in Syria and Iraq.”
Majlesi said that preserving the only remaining military base, inherited from the Soviet Union, in Latakia is of great importance for Russia.
Reformist Ebtekar newspaper wrote April 4, “In 10 summits, the Astana triangle with the presence of Iran, Russia and Turkey managed to reach achievements including the establishment of a relative truce as well as creating de-escalation zones in Syria. But [following] the military presence of Turkey in Afrin, which according to experts was done after Russia and the US’ green light, the continuation of this cooperation [between Tehran, Moscow and Ankara] has faced uncertainty.”
The Reformist daily elaborated, “In such a situation, the summit of the three countries in Turkey for the settlement of Syria’s future and their support for its territorial integrity are very far from [the current realities]. The question is how the preferred political solution of all sides involved in this issue will be fulfilled following Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria as well as the complexity of the developments in the country.”