Russia Postpones Syria Conference After Turkey’s Objection
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told NTV network on Sunday that Turkey is not planning to attend the planned meeting in Russian resort city of Sochi to find a political settlement for the Syrian conflict, now in its 7th year.
Several Western states had expressed skepticism over the conference initially planned for November 18, saying peace efforts were better off going through the United Nations.
Turkey had been troubled by the possible involvement of Syrian Kurdish groups like the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which control much of northern Syria but are considered by Ankara to be terrorist organizations.
The plan had been announced by Russia after the latest peace talks on Syria, also backed by Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital Astana. “We immediately objected,” Kalin told NTV.
“The Kremlin then got in touch with us and said they were postponing the meeting. So as of now, if there is no change, the meeting will not be taking place on November 18 but at a later date.”
Mr. Kalin said the Syrian groups would take part but most likely Ankara would just send an observer. Russia has told Turkey that the meeting had been postponed and the PYD was not taking part.
Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, Russia and Turkey have been working together intensely since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian warplane over Syria.
Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow’s military intervention in Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad’s ouster.
Although Turkey’s policy is officially unchanged, Ankara has notably cooled its rhetoric against the Damascus regime since its cooperation with Russia began to strengthen.
Russia and Turkey are now enforcing four so-called de-escalation zones in flashpoint areas in Syria in a bid to pave the way for peace, including the northern Idlib province which is largely controlled by jihadists.