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Astana Meeting Criticizes US Presence, Israel’s Raids but Forgets the Golan

Astana Meeting Criticizes US Presence, Israel’s Raids but Forgets the Golan

Saturday, 14 December, 2019 - 13:15
Members of the delegations attend a session of the peace talks on Syria in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

The latest meeting that brought together “guarantor states” (Russia, Turkey, and Iran) of the Sochi-Astana process in the Kazakh capital reflected a prioritization of geo-political concerns at the expense of the priorities of the Syrian people.

The focus shifted from Idlib in the Syrian northwest to the American presence in the northeast and Israel’s strikes on Iranian targets there.

The New US Presence

The bulk of the three guarantors’ discussions dealt with America’s new deployment strategy in light of President Donald Trump’s approval of a Pentagon plan to deploy around 600 soldiers to “protect oil”. This compelled European states to maintain their forces within the international coalition fighting ISIS alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces.

In practice, Russia and Turkey agreed on sharing control of the area east of the Euphrates with the Americans, who had previously controlled the entire area with their allies. This requires extensive military coordination at a time when the Russian police are playing the role of the moderator between the different factions present in the region.

There is also an agreement between America and Turkey that organizes the Turkish presence in Ras al-Ain and Tal Abiad and a Turkish-Russian deal that manages Turkey’s presence in the north of the Qamishli-Aleppo highway. The Americans and Russians agreed on “preventing altercations” in the airspace of the area east of the Euphrates as well, and Damascus and the Syrian Democratic Forces have their own deal regulating deployment there. As for Iran, its presence is dependent on cooperation with Damascus and Russia “turning a blind eye”, while they are facing US pressure and being hit with Israeli airstrikes.

Based on all of this, the guarantors escalated their confrontation with the US without labeling its presence “illegitimate”, in contrast to rhetoric expressed by each of these states individually. According to the tripartite statement, they discussed the situation in northeastern Syria and agreed that the long-term security and stability of this region can only be achieved on the basis of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. They also expressed their opposition to the unlawful seizure and transfer of oil revenues; Instead, these revenues should go to the Syrian Arab Republic, said the statement.

The Fall of the Golan Heights

On the other hand, the Iranians received support from their two “partners”, the Turks and the Russians, for the first time. The segment, which had been added in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to accept Israel’s sovereignty over the Gold Heights, stipulates that the three countries condemn the persistence of Israel’s military attacks on Syria, which violate international and human rights law and undermines the sovereignty of Syria and neighboring countries, as well as posing a threat to security and stability in the region. However, what stands out is the removal of a clause that had been included in the previous Astana statement. This segment stipulated that the three guarantors reaffirmed their insistence, once again in this regard, on respecting international law, including relevant UN resolutions which reject the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, first and foremost Security Council Resolution 497.

Syrians’ Priorities

No progress was reached in the meeting that brought the representatives of the Syrian opposition and government together. There was no progress with regards to the issue of the kidnapped or detainees and no agreement to accelerate the work of the Constitutional Committee either.

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