The summit in Sochi on the future of Syria brought new hope for stability and peace. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the “locomotive” of the summit where Turkey and Iran were the “first class passenger cars” in this train of peace after nearly seven years of civil war in Syria. Russia is now the “peacemaker” in the Middle East, and Syrian president Bashar Assad’s meeting with Putin before the summit already indicated that Syria was the beloved “protegé” of Russia.
Both Russia and Iran support Assad unconditionally whereas Turkey’s “wrong policies” towards Syria will be corrected step-by-step. In Turkish public debate, the Arab spring and subsequent developments in the region put Turkey among the “losers” because Turkey changed its policy towards Syria from “friend” to “enemy” overnight in 2011 and there is still open question what Barack Obama administration promised to the Turkish government. What is known now is that Turkey’s involvement in Syria to get rid of president Bashar failed and Turkey now is not the “rule maker”, but follower of Russian policy.
Turkey’s support to Syrian rebels ended with around 3.5 million migrants to Turkey and billions of dollars for their stay in the country. President Erdogan’s desire that the Kurdish groups like YPG which has organic relations with the PKK may not be allowed to the talks is an important condition and the negotiations in Geneva will show whether these “local forces and supporters for Russia and the US in fight against ISIS” will be invited or not. Turkey could be the “spoiler of the future talks” if the YPG is invited. Russia and Iran should take this Turkish concern into account. President Putin and President Rouhani indicated that “all ethnic and religious groups’’ would be invited. In this case, Turkey’s “a la carte position” could weaken the summit’s main objective. Indeed, Syria needs free elections and economic restructuring with Bashar Assad in power in the coming years. The question is how the three guarantors will work in harmony in the future. Since Astana, Russia takes the lead and Putin is the “creator of new Syria.”
The family picture of the summit puts “happy faces” to international press, Russia’s success and the failure of US policies, though the Russian-US understanding exists and the defeat of ISIS is a common victory for both Iraq and Syria. But Russia’s careful policy not to create concerns among the regional players will bear fruits in coming years. Israel will also have to live with this “new Syria” and the Kurds in Iraq and Syria have now reached their limits and there will be no Kurdish state in the region for the decades to come. The Kurds are also the “losers” of the Arab spring. To help US and Russia defeat ISIS is important but it does not provide the expected dream to establish an independent Kurdish state. Russia, if it is sincere in regional politics, has to recognize the fact that Turkey and Iran have no interest in any Kurdish state or autonomous status in Syria. In Astana they agreed upon the “territorial and ethnical unity of Syria,” which was stressed again in Sochi. It means “old Syrian state territories with new administrative structures.”
Turkey’s fight against PKK terrorism will continue and Putin knows about it. But Russia will not give up its relations with the Kurdish groups and this will remain a “problem” in relations between the two countries. This is the only critical point towards Russia’s policy in Syria.
The Sochi summit was an expected success due to the common will of the three guarantors and President Assad to end the six traumatic years of civil war. Assad is the winner of the summit and all three leaders “served” to his success to stay in power and restructure the country again.
Turkey would be the “economic winner” of this new situation in the coming years as it was before the civil war in Syria. When and how these two “old pals” will sit face to face at the negotiation table is an open question. Both Erdogan and Assad know that they have to do this. By the way, the table would be Russian-made and soup would be Russian “borsch” served by Putin. Iran would serve as a “waiter” looking at the two leaders and telling them this is the best they could take. Both Erdogan and Assad know that American soup was too salty for their taste. It is time to taste Russian food, once again after so many decades.