Why Iran did not attend the Europe-Russia-Turkey summit on Syria

Al-Monitor | : The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met Oct. 27 in Istanbul for a summit to discuss the ongoing developments regarding the Syrian crisis. In a final statement issued after the summit, the four sides emphasized Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the necessity of continuing the fight against terrorism in the war-torn country. They also underlined the need for resolving the Syrian crisis through a “negotiated political process,” while calling for providing conditions for the “safe and voluntary return of refugees to Syria.” The quartet also supported the Sept. 17 Russian-Turkish deal in Sochi on de-escalating the situation in Idlib.

The four-way summit, the first of its kind since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, was of prime importance in terms of its potential for establishing a connection between what has been pursued by Russia and Turkey within the framework of the Astana peace process and the European views toward Syria. However, this very point sparked speculation on why Iran, as the third pillar of the Astana track, did not attend the summit and whether Tehran had been sidelined by its Astana partners.

To address this matter, there is a need to consider what the summit in Istanbul was about and thus what implications it could have for Iran’s role in Syria. Based on reports in the media prior to the summit as well as the joint statement of the four leaders, it could be argued that the discussions in Istanbul were focused on three main issues: the fate of the Sochi deal between Ankara and Moscow on the situation in Idlib; finding a solution for the return of Syrian refugees; and accelerating the political process — including the formation of Syrian Constitutional Committee agreed upon at the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi on Jan. 30.

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