Triangle Russia-Turkey-Iran: "Astana format" and the Syrian crisis« Back
The civil war in Syria between government forces and the opposition that grew into a struggle against the Islamic state formed in June 2014* and other radical organizations contributed to the provision of military and political influence on the part of the states concerned. Real support for the legitimate Syrian government was provided by Russia and Iran, and imaginary from Turkey (before the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016). At the same time, the US, EU, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have continued their policy of forcibly removing President Bashar Assad from power.
Moscow, with the beginning of the military operation in late September 2015 and Tehran, which has been helping the official Damascus since January 2012, contributed to the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria and the return of its territories to the control of government troops through the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces and pro-Iranian armed formations (Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiites, Afghan Hazaras).
Despite military successes in the liquidation of the ISIL* and a significant reduction in the military potential of Djebhat-an-Nusra ** and a host of other smaller jihadist organizations, Syrian government troops face a number of difficulties.
First, radical Islamists directly or indirectly continue to receive modern American weapons. Secondly, in the groups of Islamists there is a high morale and strict discipline is maintained. Third, the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France are pursuing a policy of double standards against the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). Despite the fact that in 2015-2017 European states themselves have experienced numerous terrorist acts, their foreign policy is not aimed at an early settlement of the Syrian crisis. Moreover, such a policy is often aimed at resolving its own internal problems. Thus, US President D. Trump is under fire of constant criticism from both the media and a large part of the political elite, so he is trying to increase his influence within the country at the expense of his own power structures, whose activities in the SAR are not controlled by Washington. In such conditions, the resolution of the Syrian crisis receded into the background. And the EU, especially Spain, Italy, France and Germany, is acutely facing the solution of the problem of refugees from North Africa, the Middle East and the Middle East.
In addition, the policy of Western states largely depends on the activities in Syria of the British and American special services, which in reality are not interested in the success of the inter-Syrian negotiations under the aegis of the UN in Geneva. Their goal is somewhat different - not only containment in the SAR of Russia and Iran, but also their removal as military and political actors from this Middle East conflict.
Within the framework of overcoming the protracted military and political crisis in Syria and establishing a political dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, an alternative platform was created in the person of the Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle, in which Moscow and Ankara are the defining players.
In August 2016, during the visit of Turkish President Erdogan to St. Petersburg, the process of normalizing Russian-Turkish political and trade-economic relations was launched. In October of the same year, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a return visit to Istanbul for the World Energy Congress. After that, mutual understanding was reached between our countries on a number of international political issues. As a result, Ankara joined the format of the regional triangle to fight the ISIL and other radical organizations in Syria.
In December 2016, the first consultations took place with the participation of the Foreign and Defense Ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran. Following the talks in Moscow, the parties expressed their readiness to contribute to the development and become guarantors of a future peace agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition. Then it was important to establish a ceasefire. On this, the government of Syria and the armed opposition managed to agree on December 29, 2016. The guarantors of the peace process were Russia, Turkey and Iran.
In January 2017, with the mediation of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, the so-called "Astana format" of settling the Syrian crisis with the involvement of various opposition forces was created. He was called upon to assist the inter-Syrian talks with the International Syrian Support Group (MGP) under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva.
The first round of talks (conference) in Astana was held on January 23-24, 2017. As a result, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to establish a joint body (tripartite commission), which was entrusted with monitoring the compliance with the ceasefire in Syria. The competence of the tripartite commission includes both ensuring full compliance with the ceasefire, as well as "preventing any provocations and determining the modalities of the ceasefire regime."
The first stage of the Astana peace process is notable for the fact that there for the first time at the negotiating table were both the official Damascus and the Syrian opposition. But there was no direct dialogue between the parties. In addition, within this format, the process of delimiting the "moderate" and "radical" opposition began, which could not be done with the participation of the US in Geneva. In particular, it was possible to coordinate the lines of contact with the ISIL, and also to begin to identify the locations of the radical Islamists from the pro-Duda group Djebhat an Nusra. No less important is the fact that Russia transferred proposals to the Syrian opposition on the draft constitution of the country. Thus, in the opinion of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow opened a discussion on the content of the basic law of the republic.
The second round of talks in Astana was held on February 15-16, 2017, with the participation of the guarantor countries of the peace process, the delegations of official Damascus, the Syrian opposition, the United Nations and the observer countries represented by the United States and Jordan. The main outcome of the second round of negotiations was the final agreement on the establishment of a monitoring group for a truce in Syria with the participation of Russia, Turkey and Iran.
The third round of talks was held on March 14-15, 2017 without the participation of the Syrian opposition. At this stage, the parties focused on consultations in various formats. In addition, the parties discussed the topics related to the release of prisoners; a preliminary agreement was reached on the establishment of an appropriate working group, as well as on the further delimitation of the "moderate" and "radical" opposition. Within the framework of these negotiations, the issues of creating a constitutional commission and consolidating the efforts of different countries to restore the destroyed ancient monuments of Syria, in particular in Palmyra, were discussed.
Consequently, at the beginning of 2017, the intensification of international negotiations at a high level to resolve the Syrian crisis was launched. Three international meetings on Syria were held within the framework of the Astana format, but only in one of them were representatives of the armed opposition.
The success of the talks was also facilitated by expert consultations between the parties, which became the forerunner of the subsequent rounds of negotiations in Astana. However, the intensity and the result of the Astana format depended to a large extent on the effectiveness of the Russian-Turkish dialogue.
An important political aspect of cooperation in the Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle is that, in participating in the Middle East conflict, each side of the armistice guarantor is interested in supporting the territorial integrity of Syria and realizing its own national interests.
For Turkey, the prevention of the legislative and political registration of the federation of the cantons of the Syrian Kurds (Rozhava) in the north of Syria is of primary importance. It was for this purpose that in August 2016 Turkey successfully conducted the military operation "Shield of the Euphrates", the purpose of which was to prevent the unification of the Kurdish cantons to the west and east of the Euphrates.
The very appearance of the Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle in December 2016 was due to the need for the liberation of Aleppo from radical Islamists. Then Turkey withdrew a significant part of the militants from the city, which greatly facilitated the task of its liberation. In response, Moscow allowed Ankara to create on the Syrian territory a buffer zone with a width of about 100 km and a depth of about 75 km. This prevented the reunification of the Kurdish territories with the canton of Afrin. This circumstance fully corresponded to the Turkish national interests, as it prevented the formation of a single Kurdish autonomy in the SAR.
The negotiation and fulfillment of part of the obligations by the Turkish side predetermined Turkey's participation in 2017 as a guarantor state of the peace process in Astana. This allowed, for example, negotiating the withdrawal of Islamic militants to the province of Idlib.
On March 10, 2017, Turkish President Erdogan paid an official visit to Russia. Agreements and memorandums on cooperation in trade, economic, energy and industrial spheres were signed between our countries. Within the framework of this visit, a meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council (SSRC) was held and a Russian-Turkish investment fund was set up with a capital of $ 1 billion.
It should be noted that the relations between Moscow and Ankara develop on three tracks: the Strategic Planning Group, the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation and within the framework of the public forum. The last track of relations between our countries has not been developed enough. Nevertheless, in 2019 it was declared a cross-country year of culture and tourism between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey.
Regarding the settlement of the Syrian crisis, then the Russian leader V.Putin made estimates of "cautious optimism". At the same time, the sides noted the coordinated work of the military departments and special services. In particular, Russian law enforcement agencies were interested in exchanging information with Turkish counterparts about persons involved in terrorism. This involved, for example, the alleged perpetrator of the terrorist attack in the subway in St. Petersburg on April 3, 2017, when it was established that he was under the supervision of Turkish intelligence services, but did not arouse suspicion.
The obvious minus of the Russian-Turkish talks remains the problem of political confidence, despite the declared normalization of trade, economic and political cooperation between the countries. In addition, Ankara, at least until recently, was strongly influenced by Washington. This created instability in the development of our bilateral relations. So, on the eve of the constitutional referendum in Turkey on the transition to the presidential form of government, which took place on April 16, 2017, President Erdogan used anti-Russian rhetoric to promote his opportunistic political interests. As a result, in early March 2017, the ferry service between Turkey and Crimea was unilaterally closed. Ankara still does not recognize the reunification of the Crimea with Russia and gives too much attention to the situation on this peninsula of the Crimean Tatars. All this significantly complicates our bilateral relations.
Undoubtedly, within the framework of the political triangle Russia-Iran-Turkey, agreements between Moscow and Ankara are of fundamental importance. In such circumstances, Iran, fearing losing Syria, initially was worried. Then the situation was aggravated by the fact that Ankara has demanded the withdrawal of Syria's so-called resistance forces as a part of Iranian advisers, military units of the Lebanese movement "Hezbollah", Iraqi Shiites and Afghan Hazaras. In Ankara, it was alleged that the presence of these Resistance forces prevents the stabilization of the situation in Syria on the basis of the current ceasefire agreements.
However, in the future Tehran realized that the problem of lack of trust limits the development of Russian-Turkish relations. And on the battlefield, in reality, Russia will never interact with Turkey. Such military cooperation is possible in Syria only between Moscow and Tehran.
It is obvious that the US is interested in weakening the Russia-Iran-Turkey triangle, which allows them to increase their influence in Syria. The need for this is due to the fact that under the Obama administration, the US has significantly weakened its own positions there.
The Trump administration still does not have its own strategy in Syria. Nevertheless, in the spring of 2017, it showed how it was ready to resolve this conflict. Looking ahead, it should be noted that the capture of the capital ISIL - Rakki by the Syrian Kurds in October 2017, with the air support of the United States, left practically nothing.
On the night of April 7, 2017, the United States struck a missile strike at the air bases of Syrian Air Force Al-Shayrat and Al-Quser in response to a chemical attack committed by Syrian government forces in the province of Idlib, according to Western sources. We believe that this step was aimed at solving the following problems. First, to demonstrate the military power of the United States to China, whose leader at that time was on an official visit to the United States? Secondly, this step, as it was believed in Washington, during the constitutional referendum in Turkey will significantly worsen the Russian-Turkish relations and force Ankara to support Washington's actions in Syria.
To some extent, the Americans managed to achieve their goal. Only Russia and Iran condemned the incident, which they described as aggression against a sovereign state. Moreover, Moscow suspended the Memorandum of Understanding on safety issues over Syria with the United States.
Nevertheless, on April 11-12, 2017, the scheduled visit of US Secretary of State Richard Tillerson to Moscow was held. At that time, Russian-American relations were in a state of crisis, largely due to the actions of the previous US administration. Undoubtedly, an important point of discussion at these talks was the settlement of the crisis in Syria. Following the meeting, Moscow confirmed its readiness to resume the Memorandum to prevent incidents in the sky over Syria, provided that the original purpose of the actions of the Air Force of the American Coalition and the Russian Federation Air Force in the fight against the ISIL and the Jebhat-en-Nusra is clearly confirmed.
Despite some mutual understanding on Syria between Moscow and Washington, on April 12, 2017, the United States, Britain and France submitted a draft resolution on the chemical attack in Khan-Sheikhun in the province of Idlib in the UN Security Council. In particular, Damascus was required to provide information on all air operations on the day of the incident. Moreover, the Syrian government would be obliged to provide the names of "all commanders of any aircraft" and arrange meetings with them, as well as to provide access to military bases from which strikes could be made against Khan-Sheikhun. It should be noted that the text of the draft resolution threatened to take measures against Syria in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter (concerning the imposition of sanctions and the use of military force) in the event of the use of chemical weapons. Russia could not allow this, therefore, vetoed the draft resolution.
The Russian side insisted on investigating this incident and proposed an alternative version of the resolution, which provided for the sending of experts from the UN and the OPCW to the place of the alleged chemical attack for a "full-scale investigation using the full range of methods". This draft resolution required all parties in Syria "without delay" to provide specialists with "free and safe access to the scene and surrounding areas". However, for political reasons, the Russian draft resolution was not supported by representatives of Western states.
April 13, 2017 in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministers S. Lavrov and Syria V. Muallem held talks on minimizing the consequences of the US missile strike against Syrian air bases. The next day, already in the format of a tripartite meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister D. Zarif joined them. Undoubtedly, by their actions, Americans undermine the peace process in Syria.
On the other hand, Moscow and Tehran as participants in the Astana format are reliable guarantors of a ceasefire in Syria. While Ankara, often goes to undermine the political trust between the participants in the triangle, guided by their own national interests. Nevertheless, within the framework of this format, expert consultations are held with the participation of the guarantor countries of the peace process, which serve as preparations for meetings already at the highest level.
The fourth round of high-level talks in Astana was held on May 3-4, 2017. Its main result was the Memorandum, which provides for the establishment of four zones of de-escalation in Syria. The first one is located in the north of Syria. It covers the province of Idlib, as well as the bordering northeastern parts of the province of Latakia, the western provinces of Aleppo and the northern regions of the province of Ham. The second zone is in the north of Homs province. The third zone is the Eastern Guta near Damascus. The fourth zone is located in the south of Syria in the border areas of the provinces of Deraa and Kuneitra, bordering Jordan. According to the document, since May 6, 2017, in these zones, whose boundaries the military experts should previously have designated, it is prohibited to use any kind of weapons, including aviation.
In addition, the Memorandum provides for the rapid, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to de-escalation zones. Along the lines of de-escalation zones, it was decided to establish checkpoints and observation posts.
As the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister H. Ansari stated, the provisions of the memorandum on the creation of the four zones of de-escalation in Syria should begin to be implemented one month after it was signed. The head of the Russian delegation at the talks in Astana, the special representative of the Russian president, A. Lavrentiev, noted that the de-escalation zones in Syria will be set for six months with prolongation for the same period, but the memorandum can be unlimited. The Syrian opposition at the meeting stated that the de-escalation zones should not be an alternative to the political process.
Another result of the fourth stage of the negotiations was the discussion on the establishment of a working group on the exchange of forcibly detained persons and the draft of the relevant document.
The fifth round of talks in Astana was held on July 4-5, 2017, when the main topic was the definition of the boundaries of de-escalation zones in Syria. The negotiators expected to accept documents at least on two de-escalation zones. However, this could not be done, mainly through the fault of the Turkish side.
The sixth round of the Astana format was held on September 14-16, 2017. The main result of this round of talks was the announcement of the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria: north of Homs (with the participation of Russia, Turkey and Iran); in the suburbs of Damascus - in the region of Eastern Guta (with the participation of Russia and Turkey on the basis of "Cairo" and "Saudi" agreements); on the Syrian border with Jordan in the province of Deraa (with the participation of Russia and the observers of the "Astana format" of the United States and Jordan), and in the province of Idlib (with the participation of Russia, Turkey and Iran).
Then it was decided that monitoring in the de-escalation zone in the province of Idlib would be conducted by the forces of Iran, Russia and Turkey, and in the remaining zones - by the Russian military police. A number of documents were also adopted: rules for the operation of safety bands, checkpoints and observation posts; rules for the use of military force by units of the De-escalation Control Force; the mandate for the deployment of the De-escalation Control Force; a provision on a joint Iran-Russia-Turkey focal point to address issues related to compliance with the ceasefire in the de-escalation zones.
The seventh round of the inter-Syrian talks in Astana was held on October 30-31, 2017. Following its results, Russia, Iran and Turkey issued a joint statement stating that "the sides are satisfied with the progress in the creation of de-escalation zones, and noted progress in the fight against terrorism and the liquidation of groups". Secondly, these states agreed to discuss holding the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue (CSND) with the participation of the Supreme Committee on Negotiations and several Kurdish groups in Sochi, within the framework of the Geneva process under the aegis of the United Nations. The CSND will raise issues of constitutional reform and elections in Syria, as well as the issue of the government of national unity of Syria.
As a result of the negotiations, the participants failed to approve the regulations on the working group on the release of hostages, the transfer of bodies of the dead and the search for missing persons, as well as the document on humanitarian demining (the guarantor countries only called on the conflicting parties to pay attention to this problem). In this regard, the special envoy of the Russian president on the Syrian settlement, A. Lavrentiev, said that for the adoption of documents on the exchange of prisoners and demining in Astana, it is necessary to solve a number of technical issues.
November 22, 2017 in Sochi for the first time was trilateral talks between Russian Presidents V. Putin, Iran H. Roukhani and Turkey R. Erdogan with the participation of foreign ministers and defense ministers. Particular attention during the summit was paid to the Russian-Turkish talks. Most likely, V. Putin and R. Erdogan discussed the problem of the Kurdish canton Afrin. At the same time, the Turkish side insisted on the disarmament of the Kurdish detachments. During the discussion, questions were also raised on the division of monitoring missions in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, the formation of the composition of delegations and other organizational issues of holding the Sochi 2014 CSND.
December 21-22, 2017 in Astana, the eighth round of negotiations on the settlement of the situation in Syria took place. Then, the guarantor countries agreed on the working group on the release of detainees and hostages, the transfer of bodies of the dead and the search for missing persons. A joint statement was also adopted on humanitarian demining in Syria, including UNESCO's cultural heritage sites.
Another topic was discussion of the preparation of the CSND. The outcome of the Astana talks was the decision to hold a preparatory meeting on the conduct of the CNTS on January 19-20, 2018 in Sochi.
It should be noted that the Astana format of negotiations on Syria faces opposition from an international coalition led by the United States, which has a different vision of resolving the conflict in the territory of the SAR. Thus, on January 14, 2018, representatives of the said international coalition announced that they had begun to create "security forces" of up to 30 thousand people on the basis of the Kurdish-Arab alliance created and armed by the United States - the "Syrian Democratic Forces" to control the Syrian border territories in the Euphrates River valley on the border with Turkey. In response, Ankara, which considers the Syrian Kurdish militia a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, announced its intention to conduct a military action against the Syrian Kurds. At the same time, Turkish President Erdogan presented an ultimatum to the Kurds, suggesting that in a week's time they leave their positions in the areas of Afrin and Manbij, or be ready for an operation to destroy them.
On January 17, 2018, representatives of Kurdish forces called on the UN Security Council to influence Turkey. Later, US Secretary of Defense D. Mattis said that Ankara had warned Washington before launching an offensive in Africa and stated that "the problems of ensuring Turkey's security are legitimate". It follows that Washington knew about the preparation of the Turkish military operation against its Syrian Kurdish allies, but did not prevent it. As expected, relations with Turkey for the United States turned out to be more important, and the Syrian Kurds proved to be only a "small change" for the Americans.
On January 18, 2018, Turkey began artillery and mortar fire at the positions of the "Forces of Democratic Syria" near the village of Ash-Shuyukh. Further, the Maranaz settlement was subjected to rocket fire. In the second half of the day Turkish shelling was also observed near Manbije in the north-east of the province of Aleppo, after which the Syrian Kurds were forced to begin strengthening their positions in the area.
On the same day, General H. Akar, Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (General Staff), and H. Fidan, Director of the National Intelligence Organization of the Turkish Republic, visited Moscow. They held talks with Russian Defense Minister S. Shoigu and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Army General V. Gerasimov. During the meetings, joint actions to stabilize the situation in the de-escalation zone of Idlib were mainly discussed. At the same time, the Turkish side informed Moscow about the preparation of a military operation in Afrin. For a variety of reasons, Russia could not prevent this. As a consequence, she was forced to relocate her operational group of the Center for reconciliation of warring parties and military police to the town of Tell-Rifat in the canton of Afrin.
Undoubtedly, the level of Russian-Turkish contacts is of great importance, including for the development of the energy industry in Russia. So, the Russian side received permission for the construction of the second line of the offshore section of the Turkish stream gas main pipeline, which is scheduled to be launched before the end of 2019. However, this could not be the basis for Moscow's consent to conduct military operations in Afrin by Turkish troops.
On January 19, 2018, the Turkish Defense Minister announced the launch of a military operation against Kurdish self-defense groups in Africa. Turkish military equipment continued to arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border. And in the district of Azaz from the Syrian province of Idlib arrived 20 buses with Ankara-controlled fighters of the "Free Syrian Army" and "Ahrar ash Sham." Towards evening the command of the SSA stated that the offensive on the position of the Syrian Kurds was postponed until the morning due to bad weather.
January 20, 2018, Turkey officially announced the beginning of the military operation "Olive Branch". As its goal, the Prime Minister of Turkey B. Yldırym called the creation of a security zone about 30 km wide on the Syrian-Turkish border: "The operation will be conducted in 4 stages in order to create a 30 kilometer security zone that will be stripped of terrorists" to prevent attempts to create a terrorist corridor in northern Syria. It is assumed that in the framework of the military operation in the canton of Afrin the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (KWP), the forces of the People's Self-Defense Forces, the Democratic Union Party and the ISIL will be neutralized, and the friendly population Afrin will be freed from terrorists.
According to the Turkish leadership, Ankara seeks to protect its border areas, and also to rid the Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab population of the region from the pressure and violence of Kurdish formations and similar groups. To this end, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) must provide control over 10,000 km2 of the territory of Afrin, stop the KWP from reaching the Mediterranean coast, exclude Turkey from losing its geographical contact with the Arab world, prevent the penetration of Kurdish militants into Turkey through the Amanos Range and solve some other tasks.
With the exceptionally slow advance of the Turkish troops and the armed forces of the FSA, it became increasingly evident that the military operation "Olive Branch" was gaining a protracted character. One of the reasons for this is that the Turkish army faced professional and technically trained fighters of the Kurdish militia. At the same time, the Turks and the FSA fighters under their control continue to expand the controlled territory in the border areas of Afrinn. In turn, the Kurds are fencing in the mountainous regions, preventing the Turkish troops and armed formations from penetrating deeply into their defense, if necessary, by counterattacking, given the low fighting efficiency of the FSA troops.
The desire of the Turkish military leadership not to use its own ground forces is quite natural. But relying only on the FSA, it is possible to significantly delay the military operation in the mountains, even despite the overwhelming superiority of the Turks in tanks and artillery, in the absence of Syrian Kurds of aviation.
In turn, the FAS controlled by Ankara sets its goals in the implementation of the military operation "Olive Branch". She would like to gain control over the population mainly of the Arabs of Tall Rifat and the adjacent territories captured by the Kurdish forces in February 2016. But this cannot be done without political agreements, at least between Moscow and Ankara. And if in the course of this military operation the main forces of the FSA will be destroyed by the Kurds, these territories will remain either under the jurisdiction of the Kurdish canton of Afrin or the official Damascus during the subsequent settlement of the Syrian conflict.
On the eve of the CSND, a special preparatory meeting was held in Sochi on 19-20 January 2018. The countries-guarantors of the Astana process and the government of the SAR have done a lot of work to persuade the participation in the Congress of the Syrian opposition. Syria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, B. Jafari, confirmed that a representative delegation of the official Damascus would participate in the CSND. However, in connection with the beginning of the military operation "Olive Branch", representatives of the Kurdish "Democratic Union" will not participate in the Congress.
It is expected that about 1500 people will take part in the first session of the CSND in Sochi (neutral Syrian delegates will represent Syrian Kurds), from which the Constitutional Commission will be formed. In the course of the CSND, according to the Russian side, "special working groups will be set up that can later meet in Geneva ... A constitution will be drafted, because elections will be based on the constitution, and new executive bodies will be formed on the basis of elections". Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Syria, A. Lavrentiev, expressed the hope that the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will take part in the NSDC.
By now it is established that the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue will be held on January 30, 2018 in Sochi. The countries-observers of the CSND will be Russia, Iran and Turkey. It should be noted that Kurdish representatives are included in the list of invited to the CSND, but in connection with the military operation "Olive Branch", the participation of Syrian Kurds will be limited. The success of this forum will be that in Sochi it will be possible to unite a large number of ethnic and confessional political forces from the republic, where a civil war is still under way. However, the "hot phase" of the Turkish-Kurdish confrontation in Afrin remains a significant drawback for establishing a dialogue between ethnic groups. The success of the resolution of the Kurdish problem also affects the stability of the Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle.
Thus, the main achievement of 2017 was that we managed to maintain cooperation within the Russia-Iran-Turkey triangle, despite the opposition from the US and, to a lesser extent, the EU, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And this format has a future, at least, until the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic stabilizes. Russian experts call this format a "diplomatic miracle", because it was possible to coordinate the interests of rival regional states of Turkey and Iran. And this was achieved largely thanks to Russia.
In the future, the peace process in the SAR will be waged by victories over jihadists and radical opposition, primarily by the government forces of the republic and others. But political dialogue is also necessary. Now the best conditions for this are created by the Astana format of negotiations, which has already established itself as a dynamic mechanism for resolving a regional conflict. Nevertheless, until the final settlement of the Syrian crisis, several important issues need to be resolved. First, establish control by the government troops over the province of Idlib and the area of East Guta. Secondly, it is necessary to resolve the Kurdish problem, which in the last month has become acute. Third, it is necessary to establish full control over the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic by the official Damascus. Therefore, the CSND is a piloting forum that will show a slice of mood and readiness for peaceful transformation by the Syrian society. In addition, during its conduct, appropriate recommendations will be developed for the next round of the Astana talks in February 2018.
Kharitonova Darya Viktorovna, Researcher of the Department of Eurasian Integration and Development of the SCO of the Institute of CIS countries.
* Islamic State is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.
** Djebhat-an-Nusra is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.