Turkey to host four-way Syria summit Oct 27 in Istanbul

Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host a summit on the Syria conflict with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France on October 27 in Istanbul, his spokesman said Friday, the first such gathering with key EU leaders.

The summit will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, cited by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkey, which has supported Syrian rebels, has been working with Syrian regime supporters Russia and Iran on a drive to end the over seven year civil war, in efforts that have often been greeted with suspicion in the West.

Erdogan has on three times attended trilateral summits on Syria with Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But this is the first time a meeting will bring the Turkish and Russian strongmen together with the EU’s two most significant national leaders.

The meeting will aim to find a “long-lasting solution” to the Syria conflict as well as the situation in the last major Syrian rebel-held bastion of Idlib, Kalin said.

Erdogan had previously planned to host the international summit in September, but it did not take place then. The Kremlin, Elysee and Merkel’s office all also confirmed the date of the October 27 meeting.

– ‘Major step’ –
The meeting comes after Syrian regime-ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey announced an agreement on September 17 to create a demilitarised buffer zone ringing the Idlib region, home to three million people.

The deal to create a 15-20 kilometre-wide zone came after a flurry of activity as Turkey sought to avoid an assault by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and a further influx of people across its border.

According to the deal, the zone would separate rebel and regime zones under the supervision of the two sponsor countries.

It gave until October 10 for the zone to be cleared of any heavy weapons but the second deadline for the withdrawal of “radical” fighters — taken to mean jihadist heavyweight Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other hardliners — was seen as the accord’s real test.

Both Ankara and Moscow said the deal was still on course, despite delays in the pullout of the jihadists. The deal has received a warm welcome both from Europe and the United States, relieved that more bloodshed has been averted for now.

James Jeffrey, Washington’s special representative on Syria, hailed Wednesday the Russian-Turkish deal as a “major step” that has frozen the war, after a meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara.

– ‘Avert humanitarian catastrophe’ –
The Kremlin said that the Istanbul summit will include “exchanging views on the Syria issue, including the question of advancing the process of a political settlement as well as further steps in the interest of strengthening security and stability.”

France primarily wants to ensure the Idlib ceasefire is maintained to avert a “humanitarian catastrophe and a new mass wave of refugees,” the Elysee said in a statement.

An Elysee source also warned that Macron would reconsider his plan to attend if any regime assault was launched on Idlib.

Merkel’s spokesperson Martina Fietz said Berlin wanted to work towards a process of stabilisation on Syria.

“We expect that we can make progress towards a stabilisation in Syria, knowing that this process will be very complicated and will take years.”

[source_without_link] Agence France-Presse[/source_without_link]