During the fifth round of the Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought after gaining support for establishing a “safe zone” in north Syria to ensure that Kurdish separatists and terrorists are contained and that Syrian refugees can return.
Turkey had agreed, along with the United States, to set up a corridor along the border with the northeastern area under the sway of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Ankara considers the SDF a "terrorist" group with ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeded in getting Erdogan to lower the political benchmark on creating a new Syria constitutional committee.
As for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he looked for the sixth round of the summit to be held in Iran.
The leaders tackled four main issues at the summit: forming a new constitutional committee, Idlib and de-escalation zones, northeastern Syria and creating a 910-km long and 30-km deep safe zone.
The constitutional committee: The final list of members of the new committee, tasked with carrying out constitutional reforms and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, was approved after Ankara withdrew its objection to Daham Jarba, who Damascus had nominated among four of the six disputed candidates.
Therefore, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran achieved a single breakthrough by approving Jarba and agreeing on the total 150 names.
Idlib and the de-esclation zone: A verbal understanding was achieved on postponing a full-scale offensive by Syrian regime forces on Idlib, Tehran keeping its militias stationed west of Aleppo away from the offensive, and Russian ground forces stationed north of Hama stopping their military advancements, all of which means a temporary extension of the ceasefire.
Russia, for its part, insisted on rapidly mobilizing to fight off terrorists in Idlib.
After holding collective and bilateral consultations, Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani agreed on the importance of maintaining battlefield calm by fully implementing deals related to Idlib, especially the Sochi agreement reached on September 17, 2018.
Northeast Syria: The three leaders, their discussions, and the final summit statement focused on the situation east of the Euphrates. This comes a few days after Washington and Ankara launched implementation of joint military arrangements, namely patrols, in the region.
Turkey had wanted to establish a safe zone with an infrastructure that would allow for the return of refugees, the establishment of local council areas and the withdrawal of heavy weapons for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) backed by the Washington-led international coalition. But instead, the US offered a joint security mechanism.