Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Putin wanted to meet Assad, before the tripartite meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, in order to lay the groundwork for a common understanding. Peskov then added: "The political settlement in Syria is Possible only in the most inclusive format, that is, with the participation of all the political actors in Syria. It can be achieved by the participants of the internal political process and only on the basis of mutual consensus, i.e. mutual agreements and compromise."
During the meeting with Putin, Assad thanked Russia for its military support and voiced his hope that the support would continue against foreign interference. Assad said: "At this stage, and especially after our victories over the terrorists, we are interested in promoting the political process. We believe that the political situation that has developed in the regions offers an opportunity for progress in the political process. We hope Russia will support us by ensuring the external players’ non-interference in the political process, so that they will only support the process waged by the Syrians themselves." (See Appendix I)
Concerning the tripartite meeting, the three heads of state agreed in a joint statement that the de-escalation areas in Syria have been "quite efficient and greatly helped to reduce violence." They also acknowledged that the Astana format become an "effective instrument for contributing to peace and stability in Syria". The three Presidents decided that Iran, Russia and Turkey would continue "their coordinated efforts to ensure that the progress in reduction of violence is irreversible." They then reiterated their commitment to "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity" of Syria. (See Appendix V)
Russian commentators were generally jubilant. Some compared Sochi to the Yalta Conference in 1945 that sought to establish the ground rules for the world once victory over the Axis countries had been achieved. The difference being that at Yalta Great Britain and the United States shared the spotlight with the Soviet Union, now they had been reduced to extras. The victors were dubbed the “axis of order” undoubtedly a dig on George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” who had sacrificed to uphold the principles of international law and state sovereignty.
The following are comments on the Syrian crisis, following the meeting in Sochi:
Putin-Assad Meeting – RISS Expert: No One Is Pushing For Assad's Resignation
Commenting about Assad's future, Elena Suponina, advisor to the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), said: "At the moment, all without exception – the Saudis, the Qataris and the Americans, are not pushing for Assad's speedy resignation. This has currently been dropped from the agenda, but it hardly signifies that the U.S. considers him as the Syrian ruler in the future. Moscow as well is under no illusions. Yet, at the moment, Assad is this country’s president. The situation in Syria is appreciably better than it was previously, though the fighting is still going on. No one can guarantee calm in the upcoming month and it's still possible to rock the situation..., in case the Americans get a bee in their bonnet."
(Riss.ru, November 21, 2017)
Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs and Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said: "The question regarding Assad's ‘surrender’ was relevant before Russia’s campaign began. Why should it be done now, when he actually won the war? Moreover, those who demand that – on what basis do they make their demands if they could not topple him when he was on death’s door?"
(Rbc.ru, November 22, 2017)
Russian political scientist, Leonid Isaev, said:" It does not matter with whose help Assad won – be it our help or Iranian help, or whether the victory was achieved by violating international norms or not. What matters is that he won. So, it's very hard to force him to make any concessions now."
In Isaev’s judgement Moscow's leverage on Assad is partial and limited, since even if Assad refuses to fulfill his obligations and promises, Russia will keep assisting him anyway.
(Rbc.ru, November 22, 2017)
Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the Duma defense committee, said: "Vladimir Putin has presented the armed forces leadership to Assad. This definitely was instructive for Assad and other countries showing that Syria is under our country’s reliable protection as personified by our military forces. Putin let them understand that if needed we will not allow an escalation to the conflict and a humanitarian crisis". (See Appendix II)
(Ria.ru, November 21, 2017)
Tripartite Relations: Russia's Relation With Iran And Turkey Is Only Realpolitik, Opines Lukyanov
Lukyanov commented in the Russian government daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta:
"Over the course of some years, the war in Syria has been perceived as an arena for great power confrontation – and first of all Russia and the U.S. Thus, the default consideration was that they held the key to a solution and that until the superpowers would reach agreement, nothing would fundamentally change on the ground. Moscow and Washington tried to reach agreement on numerous occasions. However, due to various reasons those attempts failed. The real key for the settlement was found in combination of the military power of one of the superpowers – in this case Russia –and painstaking diplomatic work involving regional players, Iran, Turkey and later to judge by everything Saudi Arabia that was originally on the other side of the front.
"[Nevertheless,] there should be no illusion regarding the durability of the relations [between Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia] and the mutual trust. It was about realism and a partial confluence of interests. The sides embarked on cooperation deliberately and cool headedly – and this provides hope that the process will be sustainable. One of the main reasons [for cooperation] was the confused and incoherent U.S. position."
(Rg.ru, November 11, 2017)
Semen Bagdasarov, director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, said:
"Let's have a look at the interests pursued by each side. Russia wants the fighting to stop, to keep the two military bases [Hmeimim and Tartus] and peace and quiet everywhere. Iran wants total control of Damascus and the rest of the Syrian territory. This will end up in a conflict. And what is to be done with Hezbollah which is also present in Iraq? The relations between Russia and the U.S. are extremely bad – in that condition what will Kurds be doing? They do understand though that it depends on Russia whether Turkey will start [a new] military operation [against them]…"
(Riss.ru, November 23, 2017)
Ria.ru commentator Gevorg Mirzoyan explained: "According to some experts, the Kremlin simply does not need Iranian domination within that territory [of Syria]. In case this scenario takes place, Russia with all its bases and interests will be pushed out of Syria – sooner or later. Yet, if there is a balance of powers and political competition between various actors, then and then only Moscow will be a coveted partner for all countries. [This applies] not only to regional countries, and not only in Syria."
(Ria.ru, November 21, 2017)
Post-War Syria – RIA Columnist: Iran, Russia And Turkey Will Define The Future Of Syria
In another article titled “The Axis of Order”, RIA contributor Gevorg Mirzoyan wrote: "At a time when the U.S. completely lost its sense of direction in the Middle East, a serious demand for 'order' has emerged. Russia, Iran and Turkey became the stretcher bearers of this axis of order. In fact, those countries have inaugurated themselves to serve that role in the recent summit in Sochi. This summit has already been called by some [experts] as a Middle Eastern Yalta.
"This triumvirate, by the right of victors against ISIS and Al-Nusra, will define the face of post–war Syria. In this regard, it is quite interesting thing that one most important word was absent from the joint declaration on the summit’s outcome – Geneva. The high negotiating parties decided that that "Astana format and its achievements became an effective instrument in promoting peace and stability in Syria". Thus they have not only underlined the fact that Syria’s fate would be defined in Astana (where real field commanders meet) and not in Geneva (where political emigrants who call themselves representatives of the Syrian people), but also they made it clear that the sponsors of Astana, i.e. Russia, Iran and Turkey, would be in charge, and not the Geneva participants (Turkey and Iran are excluded from the Geneva process while Saudi Arabia, the US and Europe are in).
(Ria.ru, November 23, 2017)
Kommersant Columnist Strokan: The Interests Of Russia, Iran And Turkey Should Not Be Viewed In Any Way As Concordant
Sergey Strokan, a columnist for the business daily Kommersant, writes in his column:
"The meeting of the Turkish, Iranian and Russian presidents in Sochi, which was preceded by Syrian President Bashar Assad's visit to Vladimir Putin, as well as Russian leader's announcement on the imminent completion or the military operation in that country, will not only shape Syria's post-war future, but will also harden the Middle East’s division into spheres of influence. Moreover, the effectively achieved victory over the new global evil, the Islamic terrorism, allows the troika of anti-Isis allies to consider themselves the victors in the most important twenty-first century war, a war that lasted for six years.
"In this context, though with some reservations, the meeting of the three presidents in Sochi may be considered as a contemporary analog of the Yalta Conference, which took place in February 1945 and in whose framework, the anti-Hitler coalition allies defined the contours of a post-war world order. This parallel between Yalta and Sochi seems appropriate, despite the historic interval of over seven decades, since Moscow in recent years continually claimed that the war in Syria has to do with not only with the fate of this specific state and its leader, but also it has to do with the world's rules of the game, which were effectively set during Yalta conference and gradually ceased to serve as guidelines for the world's powers.
"Thus, during all those years in Syria, what was decided was not only about 'who is who in the Middle East' question and in world politics, but it was also about preserving such values as sovereignty, territorial integrity and yes the principles of international law in general...
"If in Yalta, Moscow's allies were the U.S. and Great Britain. In modern times creating the coalition with the leading western powers failed. As a result, Washington and London now have to play the role of extras, who are being faced with someone else’s victory rather than one shared with Moscow.
"In general, the new coalition in Syria demonstrated that the decision making center has shifted from west to east. Traditional centers of power are [being replaced] by new ones. The once all-powerful Euro-Atlantic community is witnessing in Syria the boundaries of its capabilities and the ceiling of its power.
"The interests of Russia, Iran and Turkey should not be viewed in any way as concordant. Moreover, it is likely that after the joint victory, which succeeded in preventing a dismantlement of the state, their paths will diverge, just as happened with the Yalta allies, who started the Cold War."
(Kommersant.ru, November 22, 2017)
Washington's Role In Syria – Russia's FM Spokesperson Zakharova: 'The U.S. Presence In Syria Is Illegal'
Commenting on the Syrian crisis and the meetings in Sochi, Russia's FM Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated:
"[The Washington Post, in its November 22 issue], referring to unnamed sources in the U.S. administration, …claimed that the U.S. was not planning to withdraw its forces from Syria after the rout of ISIS and had a plan to install a new administration in the north of the country.
"I would like to say that it is unclear why the paper is referring to some 'unnamed' members of the administration, when the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (I mentioned this today), told journalists in plain language on November 13 that the U.S. military would not leave Syria, I quote, 'before the Geneva process has cracked,' and the U.S. will obviously interpret the terms of political settlement as it sees fit.
"We have repeatedly drawn Washington’s attention to the fact that statements of this sort generate a lot of questions about the true aims of American and coalition military presence in Syria.
"I mentioned this today and will repeat it: From the point of view of international law, the U.S. presence in Syria is illegal.The United States is doing this not only without the relevant permission or invitation from the Damascus government, whose ambassador is in the UN on the daily basis representing his country, but also against the will of the legitimate Syrian government. The U.S. is present there without any additional or other legal grounds. To call things by their proper names, they are behaving in a way that borders on occupation. If armed forces are present in a territory of another state and are waging active warfare without its explicit permission, while international institutions, namely the UN Security Council, are not delegating the relevant authority either, it is called occupation.
"We commented on this recently. Contrary to statements by U.S. military representatives to the effect that the UN has allegedly authorized the United States, there is no UN Security Council sanction on their presence in Syria. [It will be recalled that] the UN Security Council is the only United Nations agency authorized under the UN Charter to approve decisions on the use of military force by the international community. No such decisions have been approved. Accordingly, the United States has no right to be there."
Zakharova then added: "We are particularly concerned about plans to establish certain bodies of power independent from Damascus in areas controlled by the Washington-sponsored armed groups. This is being done without the consent of local residents. We have said this repeatedly and would like to stress it again: this is a direct path towards splitting the country.
"One part of the world community – you saw this in Sochi yesterday – is holding summits and trying to consolidate the public in some way or other. They are doing their best to provide a venue and the potential for dialogue between different representatives of the opposition, former extremists, who are laying down arms, and official Damascus. They are seeking to create the right atmosphere for talks on Syria’s future, which would be held by the Syrians themselves. On the other side, we hear statements like this, statements coming from Washington, which, regrettably, are backed by moves on the ground. To reiterate: From our point of view, this is a direct path towards splitting the country. In this connection, we have to remind our U.S. colleagues that in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that defines the parameters of Syrian settlement, the United States, like the international community as a whole, has committed itself to unconditionally comply with the basic principle of respect for territorial integrity of Syria and do this in theory and in practice."
(Mid.ru, November 23, 2017)
The Future Of Russia's Presence In Syria
An unidentified high placed source in the Russian Defense Ministry briefed Gazeta.ru on the future of the Russian military contingent in Syria, once the active phase of the fighting has ended. According to the source, the total number of Russian servicemen in Syria will not exceed 4000-5000. He then explained: "The Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is necessary for keeping the balance of power and interests, which we lost after the USSR’s disintegration 25 years ago."
(Gazeta.ru, November 21, 2017)
APPENDIX I - Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's Working Visit To Russia – Kremlin.ru, November 21, 2017
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "…Welcome to Sochi. First, let me congratulate you on Syria’s results in combating terrorist groups as well as on the fact that the Syrian people, despite a very difficult ordeal, are gradually moving towards the final and inevitable defeat of the terrorists.
"Mr. President, as you know, I will meet with my colleagues – the presidents of Turkey and Iran – here in Sochi the day after tomorrow. We have agreed to hold additional consultations with you during our meeting. Of course, the main subject on the agenda is a peaceful and lasting political settlement in Syria after the routing of the terrorists.
"As you know, in addition to the partners I have mentioned we are also working closely together with other countries, such as Iraq, the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. We maintain constant contact with these partners.
"I would like to talk with you about the basic principles of the political process and the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, the idea of which you have supported. I would like to hear your opinions on the current situation and development prospects and your views on the political process, which should ultimately be implemented under the UN auspices. We also hope that the UN will join the [political] process at its final stage.
"I am glad to see you. Welcome to Russia."
The President of Syria Bashar al-Assad: "Thank you very much, Mr. President.
"I am very glad to have this opportunity to meet with you two years and several weeks after Russia launched a very successful operation.
"Over this period, we have achieved major success both on the battlefield and on the political track. Many regions in Syria have been liberated from the terrorists, and the Syrians who had to flee from these regions can now return there.
"It should be acknowledged that the operation brought progress to the political settlement in Syria. And the process which was started and which Russia promoted with various efforts continues, above all, based on respect for the UN Charter, the state’s sovereignty and independence. This stance has been defended at various international platforms, including the talks in Astana. The same goes for the plans to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Conference in a few days. Today we have an excellent opportunity to discuss both the upcoming conference and the upcoming summit, and to coordinate our views on the next steps.
"First, I would like to take an opportunity and pass congratulations and gratitude from the Syrian people to you, Mr. President, for our joint success in defending Syria’s territorial integrity and independence. We would like to extend our gratitude to those institutions of the Russian state that provided assistance – primarily, the Russian Defense Ministry that has supported us throughout this operation. Also I would like to pass our gratitude to the Russian people who remain a friendly nation to us. They have supported us all along.
"Thank you very much."
Vladimir Putin: "You mentioned the Astana talks. I also think they were quite a success. Thanks to the Astana process we managed to create de-escalation zones, which allowed us to start the first real and in-depth dialogue with the opposition.
"Based on the outcome of this meeting, I will consult further with the leaders of the countries I just mentioned. A conversation with the Emir of Qatar is scheduled for today. Tomorrow, I am speaking with U.S. President Donald Trump. After that, I am speaking with the leaders of the countries in the region.
"As you know, the so-called Riyadh opposition group will hold a meeting in Riyadh on November 22–23. Our representative, Mr. Lavrentyev, will attend the opening and closing of this meeting, as well as a news conference, as a special presidential envoy. Therefore, I believe that our meeting today is a very good opportunity to coordinate our approaches on all settlement issues. I am glad that we can do this."
Bashar al-Assad: "At this stage, and especially after our victories over the terrorists, we are interested in promoting the political process. We believe that the political situation that has developed in the regions offers an opportunity for progress in the political process. We hope Russia will support us by ensuring the external players’ non-interference in the political process, so that they will only support the process waged by the Syrians themselves.
"We do not want to look back. We will accept and talk with anyone who is really interested in a political settlement."
Vladimir Putin: "Very good. You have mentioned the completion of the military operation. I believe that terrorism is a global problem and the fight against it is, of course, far from over. As for our joint efforts against the terrorists in Syria, this military operation is nearing completion indeed.
"I believe that the main task now is to launch the political process. I am glad that you are ready to work with anyone who wants peace and conflict resolution…"
(Kremlin.ru, November 21, 2017)
APPENDIX II – Assad Meets With Senior Officials Of The Defense Ministry And The General Staff Of The Russian Armed Forces - Kremlin.ru, November 21, 2017
With Assad at a meeting with senior officials of the Russian Defense Ministry and the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Vladimir Putin: "I have asked the President of Syria to attend our meeting.
"I want him to see those who have played the key role in saving Syria.
"Of course, Mr. Assad knows some of you personally. He told me at our talks today that the Russian Army has saved Syria as a state. Much has been done to stabilize the situation in Syria. I hope that we will close the chapter on the fight against terrorism in Syria, although some seats of tension will remain or will flare up again.
"There are more than enough problems with terrorism in the world, including in the Middle East and Syria. But our main mission is almost accomplished, and I hope we will be able to say that we have accomplished it soon.
"We have held very substantial talks with the President of Syria today on all aspects related to normalization, including subsequent steps on the political track. As you know, we will hold a trilateral meeting here in Sochi. However, I would like to say that conditions for a political process could not have been created without the armed forces, without your efforts and the efforts and heroism of your subordinates. This goal has been achieved thanks to the Russian Armed Forces and our Syrian friends on the battlefield. Thank you for this."
Bashar al-Assad: "President of Russia Vladimir Putin and I have just held talks. I have conveyed to him, and on his behalf to the Russian people, our gratitude for Russia’s efforts to save our country.
"I would like to highlight the contribution of the Russian Armed Forces and the sacrifices they have made to achieve this goal. I was very glad to learn that you, those of you who were directly involved in the operation [in Syria] and who commanded the activities of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria will be present here today.
"The operation barely started when I met with President Putin in Moscow two years ago. In the two years since then we can see the success that has been achieved thanks to cooperation between the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Army. Nobody can deny this success in the fight against terrorism now. Thanks to your actions, as well as the actions of the Syrian Army and our allies, many Syrians have returned home.
"Speaking on behalf of the Syrian people, I would like to express our gratitude for what you have accomplished. We will never forget this. Also, I would like to thank personally President Vladimir Putin, [Defence Minister] Sergei Shoigu and [Chief of the General Staff] Valery Gerasimov for their direct involvement in this operation.
"Thank you very much."
(Kremlin.ru, November 21, 2017)
APPENDIX III - Meeting With President Of Iran Hassan Rouhani And President Of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan – Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "Mr Rouhani, Mr Erdogan, colleagues,
"First, I would like to thank all of you for accepting the invitation and coming to Russia, to Sochi, to discuss our continued joint work on Syria.
"Large-scale military operations against terrorist gangs in Syria are coming to an end. I should note that the joint efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey helped to prevent the disintegration of Syria and its capture by international terrorists and to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Indeed, militants in Syria have suffered a decisive blow, and now there is a real chance to end the civil war that has lasted many years.
"Less than a year ago, we initiated the launch of the Astana process, taking responsibility for guaranteeing the implementation of the agreements reached and promoting the inter-Syrian dialogue in Geneva under the aegis of the United Nations. For the first time, it was possible to bring together at one table representatives of the government and the armed opposition.
"I want to note the special role of the President of Turkey and the President of Iran. Without the stance you took, the Astana process would not have existed: there would have been no cessation of hostilities, no ceasefire, no de-escalation zones.
"As a result of seven rounds of meetings in Astana, crucial decisions for Syria have been adopted and are being implemented, the ceasefire has been observed, and four de-escalation zones have been established and are functioning in key regions of the country. It can be stated with certainty that we have reached a new stage that opens up the possibility of starting a real political settlement process.
"I believe we should focus our efforts on ensuring long-term normalization in Syria. I am primarily referring to the political settlement process, with the finalization of the Geneva talks and assistance for the country’s post-conflict recovery. The current meeting is aimed precisely at resolving this strategic task.
"We will discuss in detail further joint steps to consolidate and build on the afore-mentioned positive changes in Syria. We will exchange views on how to impart a powerful impetus to the political settlement process on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Let me recall that this document provides for launching a broad inter-Syrian dialogue with the participation of all ethnic, religious and political groups in Syria without exception.
"This is the goal of the Russia-supported initiative to convene the Syrian National Dialogue Congress here in Sochi. I suggest discussing the parameters of this forum today. The Syrian people are to decide their future themselves and determine the principles underlying the structure of their government. Obviously, the reform process will not be easy and will require compromise and concessions from all of its participants, including the Syrian Government. I hope that Russia, Iran and Turkey will do their utmost to make this work productive. I am sure that success of the forthcoming reforms will largely depend on resolving Syria’s socio-economic issues: the restoration of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, healthcare systems and education.
"The humanitarian aspect is no less important. It includes targeted aid to the population, demining of liberated territories and assistance in the return of refugees.
"Incidentally, after the implementation of our decisions on de-escalation zones, hundreds and even thousands of refugees are already returning home. Considering the enormous scale of destruction, we could think together about developing a long-term program for Syria’s comprehensive recovery.
"Experts of our countries conducted serious preparations for discussing substantive issues at the current talks, so I am confident that the discussion will be detailed and productive, and the agreements reached will help further restore peace and security in Syria and consolidate its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in general facilitate stabilization in the Middle East.
"Colleagues, I thank you for your attention. I would like to give the floor to President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. Then we would like to hear from our friend, President of TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdogan."
The President of Iran Hassan Rouhani: "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
"Mr. Putin, President of the Russian Federation,
"Mr. Erdogan, President of Turkey,
"I would like to thank Mr. Putin, the President of Russia, for organizing this important and frank meeting in the beautiful city of Sochi. I sincerely thank you for that.
"It is gratifying that in the course of less than one year since the beginning of the Astana process, our three countries – the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey – have made extensive efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, and paved the way for a political settlement of the crisis in Syria. Today, new prospects for ending the crisis in Syria are opening up. I am very happy that our three countries, while emphasizing the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, independence and unity of Syria, have pledged to closely cooperate in order to create peace and stability in Syria.
"From the very beginning, the crisis in Syria was accompanied by direct foreign intervention, including comprehensive, all-round support and equipment and weapon supplies for the militant groups that later formed the backbone of ISIS and al-Nusra, and which were used to further fan the flames of terrorism in this country. This has been an important factor in prolonging the crisis.
"Fortunately, today the main pillars of ISIS have been destroyed. The remaining terrorist groups are on the verge of collapse. We owe this victory, without a doubt, to the brave people of Syria, and to the volunteers, soldiers and brave young people who destroyed the devilish fortresses of terrorism and extinguished the flame of evil. These people are the vanguard of the international community in combating the abominable barbarism that threatens the entire human race. We need to continue our fight against terrorism to eradicate the last terrorist cells and all the con men in Syria, so that the Syrian people no longer suffer under the yoke of terrorism and terrorist acts.
"If other peoples and countries in the region learn something from this artificial crisis of Syria, let it be this: some powers that claim to pursue democracy and human rights will not hesitate to make extensive use of the tools of terrorism and violence in order to achieve their short-sighted objectives in the region. The lesson, which these powers have not learned yet, is that the aftermath of supporting terrorism and extremism will not be confined to just one region; this evil will spread to all regions in the world.
"Today the region is on the threshold of new conditions for eliminating violence. Those who bred terrorism are attempting to bring about a new crisis as they are concerned that terrorism has been defeated and that violent Salafism might spread to their countries. They are putting at risk the stability that has been created and the efforts that have been made by regional nations, including Iran.
"For six years, the Syrian people fought terrorism that was funded and supplied with weapons and intelligence by foreign nations, and it needed friendly nations and governments to aid it in this unequal struggle. In that respect, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first nation, the first government to answer the call of the government and the people of Syria to help them fight terrorism. We answered this call and lent our support to the unified Syrian government. We provided support to the people of Syria to restore peace and safety, to fight and eliminate terrorists, and to prevent a repeat of the pattern of destabilization of Muslim countries like the one we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"In both Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran has used all the means at its disposal to provide security, to restore these two countries and to fight terrorism. We have cooperated with the legitimate governments of these countries on this. We take a very serious stance with regard to fighting terrorism and we are ready to provide other countries with our assistance in this field at their request.
"Unfortunately, some countries active in our region are following the examples of the United States and the Zionist regime to sow discord and hatred between the peoples of the region and to shift the responsibility for the outcomes of their hostile policy that seeks to tear the region apart.
"The struggle against strife and unrest is one of the manifestations of the practical policy of Iran, which is taking an active part in the Astana format. Our strategy lies in joint actions and competition, coordination and oversight, cooperation with nations, and friendship rather than hostility.
"All efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran are based on the principles and norms of international law and the UN Charter, legitimate cooperation and support for regional stability. By pooling our efforts, we have destroyed the decaying body of terror in Syria and dispersed the dark shadow of ISIS in that country. We have outlined a clear future for the region.
"In our conditions, our noble mission is not only to combat terrorism but also to root out various forms of discrimination and poverty by force. This is why we must expand and deepen contacts and regional institutions. Using this approach we may develop a more powerful region and use all its advantages together.
"Now that we are on the eve of the Syrian National Dialogue Conference, I consider it necessary to make some points on achieving results.
"First. The struggle against terrorism is not yet over and we must by no means give up our efforts to counter the spread of terrorism in the region in the light of recent victories over ISIS. We must help the people of Syria to continue their struggle until terrorism in their country is fully defeated.
"Respect for the national sovereignty of Syria is an inalienable part of this struggle. There is no excuse for the presence of foreign troops on the territory of Syria without the permission of its legitimate Government.
"After many years of struggle against terrorism and its patrons, Syrians are now in a position to use the new conditions to build a future where their needs are met and there is national and ethnic diversity, and stable popular democracy based on the power of the people. The people of Syria will not allow foreigners to interfere in their domestic affairs. Naturally, they will resist any attempts to encroach on their national sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence.
"Third. The role of the international community in the future of Syria should, of course, be focused on providing assistance to the people of that country in order for them to be able to achieve stability, to put an end to the suffering of this nation, to foreign interference and the imposition of the views of others on the people of Syria.
"The provision of comprehensive humanitarian aid is an important part of the political agenda. In order to alleviate the suffering of the people of Syria, it is necessary to include this in the agenda, and to create the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees to their native lands. Countries and international organizations must cooperate here.
"The recovery of Syria, as well as economic development in that country, requires the full support of the international community with an emphasis on rebuilding damaged and destroyed infrastructure, as well as creating production opportunities in that country, including the participation of the countries of the region. Our meeting today opens this new stage. Our joint efforts over the past 11 months have shown that, only with political coordination of cooperation and proper implementation of agreements, were we able to be successful in stopping terrorism and violence.
"With regard to the National Congress, for it to succeed, it is imperative to coordinate the positions of all three countries at all levels.
"In closing, I would like to thank the people and the government of Kazakhstan for making the Astana meeting possible; the people and the government of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, the government and the people of Russia, and Mr. Putin for coordinating and holding the Astana meetings. I sincerely thank you all.
"I hope that the continuation of this trilateral cooperation will provide fertile ground for the speedy settlement of the crisis in Syria and the resolution of this debilitating conflict.
"Thank you for your attention. Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "Thank you, Mr. President.
"We are all well aware that a special burden falls on Turkey’s shoulders due to the large influx of refugees. This is an unprecedented situation. Hundreds of thousands, millions of people are located on the territory of the Republic of Turkey.
"I would like now to give the floor to Mr. Erdogan, the President of Turkey."
The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Thank you very much.
"Mr. President, dear friends,
"I would like to say how pleased I am to be here in Sochi with you. To my friend, Mr. Putin, thank you for receiving all three of us here.
"I would like to take this opportunity to mention the earthquake Iran suffered last week. I wish a speedy recovery to all those injured and I would like to say, may Allah put at rest the souls of both our Iranian and Iraqi brothers.
"Today’s trilateral council is of great importance for finally stopping the bloodshed and putting an end to the tragedy that has lasted for many years. The whole world has seen the progress Turkey, Russia and Iran have made in their efforts on the Syrian issue.
"I would also like to express my gratitude to President Nazarbayev for the event for which he provided the venue in Kazakhstan. Our meetings in Astana were of benefit to the whole region, praise Allah.
"The results that we have achieved are significant but we do not consider them sufficient. We believe that stakeholders should make a significant contribution to establishing political stability and providing a lasting settlement of this issue for the Syrian people.
"The heads of our countries’ militaries have met. As for this trilateral summit, it will sum up the results of all the meetings that have been held. I believe that we will leave this place having achieved good results. I believe that we will make critical decisions today. With this feeling, I pray to Allah that this summit benefits all.
"Thank you very much."
(Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017)
APPENDIX IV - Press Statements Following Meeting With President Of Iran Hassan Rouhani And President Of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan –Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "… The President of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, the President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, and I have just concluded comprehensive talks on Syria, which were held in a constructive and businesslike manner.
"We have thoroughly discussed the key aspects of the Syrian settlement and agreed to continue making every effort to resolve the primary task of establishing peace and stability in that country, and preserving its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
"We noted with satisfaction the significant successes in our joint fight against terrorism, and confirmed our willingness to increase cooperation in order to completely destroy ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other extremist groups.
"In our common opinion, the successes on the battlefield, which are bringing closer the liberation of Syria from militants, are also ushering in a qualitatively new stage in overcoming the crisis in general. I am referring to the realistic prospect of achieving lasting and comprehensive normalization in Syria, including political life in that country, in the post-conflict period. This is precisely the aim of the joint statement that came out of our talks.
"The document outlines the priority areas for further cooperation between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which play a leading role in Syrian affairs, and sets specific goals for the future. We are united in our commitment to promote the interaction of the three states within the Astana format, which has already proved its effectiveness and contributed to significantly reducing the level of violence in Syria and creating the necessary conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
"As guarantor countries, Russia, Iran and Turkey continue to work closely on strengthening the ceasefire, the sustainable functioning of de-escalation zones, and on increasing the level of trust between the parties to the conflict. To this end, priority steps have been identified to step up inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue on the basis of Security Council Resolution 2254.
"I note with satisfaction that the presidents of Iran and Turkey supported the initiative to hold a country-wide forum in Syria – the National Dialogue Congress. We agreed to hold this very important event at an appropriate level and ensure the participation of representatives of broad sections of Syrian society. We have instructed the foreign ministries, as well as representatives of special services, security and defense agencies to continue looking into the makeup and timeframe for holding the congress here in Sochi.
"Generally, the idea is to bring together at the negotiating table delegations from various political parties, the domestic and external opposition and ethnic and religious groups. The congress will address key issues on the national agenda for Syria, above all those related to defining the parameters of future statehood, the adoption of a new constitution and, based on that, holding elections under UN oversight. This will provide an incentive for stepping up efforts to bring about a settlement in Syria within the framework of the Geneva process. To reiterate, Syria’s fate should be decided by the Syrians themselves – both government loyalists and the opposition.
"Our colleagues were briefed on the conversation with President of Syria Bashar Assad that took place here in Sochi. We took note of the Syrian leadership’s stated commitment to the principles of settling the political crisis by peaceful means and carrying out a constitutional reform, as well as free, UN-supervised elections.
During today’s talks, we did not bypass matters of Syria’s socioeconomic recovery. A great deal of work lies "ahead, to help the Syrian people create infrastructure, restore industry, agriculture and trade and reopen social facilities: hospitals, schools and kindergartens.
"It is of paramount importance – we have repeatedly stressed this – to boost the amount of humanitarian aid to the population, completely clear Syria’s territory of landmines and preserve the historical and cultural heritage. At our meeting today, we have agreed to do our best to encourage other states, as well as regional and international organizations, to become involved in these efforts.
"In conclusion, I would like to thank our Iranian and Turkish partners, my colleagues President Rouhani and President Erdogan for this substantive, very useful and productive conversation. I would like to hope that the agreements that have been reached will help effectively accelerate a peaceful settlement in Syria and reduce the risks of the outbreak of new conflicts and the escalation of interethnic and interreligious rivalry and as result, will have the most positive impact on the situation in the Middle East as a whole…"
The President of Iran Hassan Rouhani: "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful,
"I would like to begin by thanking President Putin for his important initiative to hold a summit of the three countries to address peace and stability in Syria, as well as to ensure that Syrian refugees safely return to their homes.
"The importance of the moment that was chosen for this meeting is that at present, our decisions can help stabilise the situation in Syria, as well as foster the progress of the Astana meetings.
"ISIS bases in Syria and Iraq have mostly been destroyed and a consensus with regard to fighting terrorism has been reached in the region. Terrorism cannot be a tool for any country; under any circumstances, terrorism is a threat to countries. We are seeing that now ISIS is threatening the countries that at one time were helping it, and it is killing innocent people in these countries. This is the context in which the present meeting was held.
"The meeting was very useful; we exchanged views and shared our positions. The main aim is to form the Syrian National Dialogue Congress with the participation of representatives of all sections of the Syrian population – those who support the Syrian government and those who are in opposition to it – so that they could get together, discuss Syria’s future and create conditions for developing Syria’s new Constitution. The new Constitution could serve as a basis for holding elections in Syria. This could become a message of peace and stability for the entire region. Our three countries are urging all countries in the world to facilitate peace in Syria and to provide conditions for Syrian refugees to return home, as well as for the economic recovery of the Syrian state.
"We laid out our positions. All the three countries spoke in favor of holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress here in Sochi, as well as a meeting at the level of the three countries’ foreign ministers. Representatives of our countries’ intelligence and security agencies will meet to ensure conditions are in place to hold this congress.
"We hope that this congress will become a new step toward peace and stability in Syria, as well as to free elections in Syria, based on a new Constitution.
"I would like once again to thank President Putin for his invitation and also thank President Erdogan for his participation in this meeting. We hope that this process, aimed at achieving peace in Syria, will continue."
The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "… I extend my cordial greetings to you all. I would like to thank all our Russian friends as represented by my friend Mr. Putin.
"Our close dialogue with Russia continues both at the bilateral and regional level. We are achieving results in all areas, praise Allah. I would like to emphasize that we agree with Mr. Putin that it is necessary to give additional impetus to our efforts.
"During my bilateral meeting with Mr. Rouhani, we came to the same conclusion – that we must continue to develop our relations in all areas.
"During our meetings today, both with Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Putin, we had frank discussions on all agenda items. We again reviewed the measures we must take to bring about a truce in Syria. We were pleased to note that the formation of de-escalation zones played the main role in decreasing tensions.
"We also discussed steps that may contribute to the Geneva process for a durable resolution of the Syrian conflict, taking into account the progress achieved at the Astana talks.
"On the other hand, I would like to note that we unanimously agreed that we must support the implementation of a large-scale, free, fair and transparent political process led by the Syrian people as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
"I would also like to note that we decided to coordinate our efforts to make a meaningful contribution to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which will be held at the initiative of the Russian Federation.
"Our statement today is the first step reflecting the fundamental principles of our cooperation. There is no doubt in this context that we strongly believe that these positive steps should continue. The sides’ positions in this regard are key to the success of our efforts. This depends above all on the position of the government and the opposition. On the other hand, our mutual understanding and mutual respect as guarantor countries are crucial in this respect.
"Our country’s priority will be to wipe out terrorist elements, which are encroaching on our country’s national security, on Syria’s political unity and territorial integrity. Nobody should expect us to stay under the same roof with a terrorist organization that is encroaching on national security. If we state our commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity, as well as to Syria’s political unity, we cannot see the blood-stained gang that is trying to divide the country as a legitimate player.
"Ladies and gentlemen, during the consultations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Rouhani, we emphasized the importance of confidence-building measures. To implement these measures step by step, it is necessary to provide unhindered and continuous access to humanitarian aid for people who have for many years been isolated in this respect.
"I believe that the point that we have reached will be a key stage in achieving this goal. On the other hand, I also believe that our meeting will be useful and will have a positive response in this region. I invite all responsible members of the international community to support our efforts…"
(Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017)
APPENDIX V - Joint Statement By The Presidents of Iran, Russia And Turkey – Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017
"The President of The Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani, the President of The Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the President of The Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gathered in Sochi on November 22, 2017, for а tripartite meeting, reaffirmed their determination to continue active collaboration among Iran, Russia and Turkey with а view to establishing peace and stability in Syria, envisaged by UNSCR 2254.
"The Presidents expressed satisfaction with the current level of tripartite coordination on maintaining and strengthening the ceasefire regime in Syria, of which Iran, Russia and Turkey are guarantors.
"The heads of state noted that, following several years of international efforts to defeat UNSC-designated terrorist groups in Syria, over the 11 months since the establishment of the ceasefire regime on December 29, 2016, a breakthrough had been made in bringing closer the elimination of ISIL, Nusra Front and all other terrorist organizations as designated by the UNSC and agreed that Iran, Russia and Turkey will continue cooperation for their ultimate defeat.
"The Presidents emphasized that the creation of the de-escalation areas established in Astana process in Syria have been quite efficient and greatly helped to reduce violence, alleviate the humanitarian suffering, curb the flow of refugees, and start working to provide conditions for the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
"The Presidents acknowledged that the 'Astana format' and its achievements have become an effective instrument for contributing to peace and stability in Syria.
"The Presidents decided that Iran, Russia and Turkey would continue their coordinated efforts to ensure that the progress in reduction of violence is irreversible. They agreed to assist the Syrians in restoring unity of the country, and achieving а political solution of the crisis through an inclusive, free, fair and transparent Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process leading to а constitution enjoying the support of the Syrian people and free and fair elections with the participation of all eligible Syrians under appropriate un supervision.
"The Heads of state reaffirmed their strong commitment to sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of The Syrian Arab Republic and emphasized that under no circumstances the creation of the above-mentioned de-escalation areas and at political initiative to solve the Syrian crisis undermine the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of The Syrian Arab Republic.
"The Presidents expressed their support for а broad intra-Syrian dialogue involving representatives of all segments of Syrian society.
"The Presidents called on the representatives of The Government of The Syrian Arab Republic and the opposition that are committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and non-fractional character of the Syrian state to participate constructively in the Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi in near future. They agreed to actively contribute to the success of the Congress. Iran, Russia and Turkey will consult and agree on participants of the Congress.
"The Presidents underscored the need for rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and emphasized the need for the Syrian parties to take confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees/abductees and the handover of the bodies as well as identification of missing persons to create better condition for political process and lasting ceasefire. They called upon members of the international community to support the process of de-escalation and stabilization in Syria, inter alia, by sending additional aid to the Syrian people, facilitating the humanitarian mine action, preserving historical heritage, and restoring basic infrastructure assets, including social and economic facilities.
"The Presidents expressed the hope that the progress in resolving Syrian crisis achieved through cooperation of Iran, Russia and Turkey would have а positive effect on the overall situation in the region, and reduce the risk of ethnic and sectarian divide.
"The Presidents decided to meet again as needed.
"The Presidents of The Islamic Republic of Iran and The Republic of Turkey expressed their sincere gratitude to the President of The Russian Federation, Н.Е Vladimir Putin, for hosting this tripartite summit in Sochi."
(Kremlin.ru, November 22, 2017)