Earlier this week, the Iranian capital Tehran hosted a tripartite summit that brought together Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Russian and Turkish, counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This was the first meeting between the convening officials in nearly two years. The three presidents discussed the Syrian issue, the Russian-Ukrainian war, and Ukrainian grain exports among other issues, most notably the economy.
Putin arrived in Tehran on his second foreign visit since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, where he met his Iranian and Turkish counterparts last Tuesday. This was followed by the signing of several economic agreements in the energy field between Russia and Iran, on the one hand, and Iran and Turkey, on the other hand.
In line with the three way summit, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom signed a new development deal worth $40 million with the Iranian state oil company.
After Putin’s meeting with Raisi, he said that relations between Iran and Russia are “developing at a good pace,” according to Iranian media outlets.
He added that “the two countries are bolstering ties in areas such as international security, trade and resolving the Syrian crisis,” according to Russian media.
Moscow and Ankara are two main parties in the Syrian war. While Ankara supports the armed opposition, Moscow stands by the Syrian government, as is the case with Tehran, which has prevented the fall of Bashar al-Assad's regime.
A political analyst said that “the tripartite summit in Tehran reflected the divergence of viewpoints among the three participating parties on the Syrian issue.”
Syrian political analyst and researcher Khorshid Dali added that “the three parties expressed their desire to develop economic relations among them despite all the differences.” Below is the full transcript of Majalla's telephone interview with Dali:
- What are the outcomes of the tripartite Tehran summit?
There are two topics to examine in light of the tripartite summit. The first lies in the three leaders' affirmation of activating the Astana Peace Process on the Syrian crisis. The second is related to the three parties’ great willingness to develop economic and trade relations among them. This has already been seen in the signing of several agreements in the field of energy between Russia and Iran, on the one hand, and Iran and Turkey, on the other hand, in addition to the extension of Ankara's deal to purchase Iranian oil.
- How will the agreement of the three parties to activate the Astana Process affect the Syrian issue?
So far, it has been clear that the three presidents agree on the need to reassess the Astana Process in light of the new international developments, such as the Ukrainian crisis, the energy issue, grain export, and the military operation that Turkey seeks to launch in northern Syria. The Syrian problem is thorny, and there is a great difference in the positions of Turkey and Iran, on one hand, and Iran and Russia, on the other hand. For example, Moscow and Tehran clearly reject any new Turkish military operation in northern Syria, but Ankara sticks to it under the pretext of combating terrorism. Therefore, despite the three parties' agreement to advance the Astana Process, there is still a divergence in stances, which indicates that the three countries tried, through the Tehran summit, to find a new mechanism for addressing the crisis, for fear of a clash among them.
3- What is the reason behind such a mechanism among the three parties despite the continuous differences in the Syrian issue?
What prompts the three countries to adopt this mechanism is the extent of their common interests. In addition to that, their attempts to create a regional cooperation environment in the face of US pressures, especially those imposed by Washington on Russia and Iran and in light of the sanctions imposed on them, as well as the obstacles facing the nuclear agreement.
4- In your opinion, how will this mechanism be?
The Syrian matter was certainly the most prominent, especially since the summit’s title was related to the issue of activating the Astana Process regarding the Syrian crisis. However, it was also clear that the agreement of the three parties to activate this Process came in an attempt to push the Russian vision for the development of the Syrian crisis, which would apply pressure on the US presence in the eastern Euphrates region.
At the same time, the differences in the postures of the three parties regarding the Syrian issue stem from the keenness of these countries to ensure the balance of power on Syrian territory. This matter might be reflected in the imposition of a truce that may block the way for the Turkish military operation and pave the way for more internal dialogues among the Syrian parties without reaching comprehensive solutions.
5- Who are the parties that will negotiate internally?
Considering the statements issued during the tripartite summit in Tehran, we may witness a great rapprochement between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian government in the coming period, especially with the recent military understandings between the two sides that have Russia’s blessing.
Talking about an Iranian initiative for dialogue between Damascus and Ankara will stimulate more communications between the SDF and the Syrian government, but all this will not put an end to Turkish threats to invade northern Syria.
Jiwan Soz is a researcher and journalist who focuses on Syrian and Turkish affairs and minorities in the Middle East. He is also a member of Syndicat National des Journalistes (National Syndicate of Journalists [SNJ]). He tweets at @JiwanSoz1