Putin, Rouhani to meet with Erdogan in Syria summit

Leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey meet in Ankara for Syria summit
3 min read
16 September, 2019
Russian President Putin and Iranian President Rouhani are scheduled to meet with Turkish President Erdogan on Monday to discuss the situation in Idlib and the 'safe zone'.
The Russian, Iranian and Turkish leaders will discuss Idlib [Getty]
The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey are to meet in the Turkish capital on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria with the hopes of coming to a lasting political solution to the eight-year conflict.

Syria's northwestern Idlib province is currently engulfed in conflict despite a Turkish and Russian pact last year to stabilise the area, with the Syrian regime and its ally Moscow having launched a joint aerial and ground offensive earlier this year to conquer the country's last rebel-held zone.

A Russian-declared ceasefire went into effect at the end of August, but regime and Russian strikes have continued, leaving six people dead last week.

While the three powers have nominally taken differing sides in the conflict - with Turkey backing opposition fighters and Iran and Russia providing fire power for President Bashar al-Assad - relations between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara over Syria have grown warmer in recent years as each weighs their strategic interests in the war-torn country. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are likely to discuss a possible deal to halt fighting and resolve control over Idlib.

Although Turkey has backed groups of fighters who oppose Assad, continuing conflict in Idlib raises the possibility of a mass exodus of refugees into Turkey.

Some 3 million civilians - around half of them already displaced from elsewhere in Syria - currently live in Idlib, and almost a million have been pushed closer to the Turkish borders by the regime offensive.

Ankara already hosts around 3.6 million Syrian refugees. As dissatisfaction with their continued presence rises, Turkey has been accused of illegally deporting refugees to Idlib. 

Erdogan has publicly backed relocating at least a million of those refugees already in Turkey to a "safe zone" currently being established with US support along the Syrian border.

The president has warned that Ankara could "open its gates" and allow Syrians to flee to Europe if Turkey is not supported in that endeavour. 

Monday's talks are the fifth such trilateral meeting.
Despite apparently divergent interests in Syria, Erdogan and Putin have cultivated closer ties over the past, meeting seven times in 2019 so far.

Russia has delivered two batteries of the S-400 missile defence systems to Turkey and the two countries are cooperating on energy deals. Moscow has also hinted at supplying Ankara with its own fighter jets.

The three leaders are also expected to discuss Turkish and US plans for a buffer zone in northeastern Syria.

Erdogan has repeatedly demanded that the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces vacate areas near its borders.

Ankara views the Kurdish forces as terrorists.

According to Turkish media, Rouhani arrived in Ankara late on Sunday and Putin arrived in the capital on Monday afternoon.

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