Deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Syria, Iran, Turkey to hold summit

Meeting to take place in Kazakhstan on June 21, says Moscow; four countries have all played roles in Syrian civil war

Visiting Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Mikhail Bogdanov, right, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Special Representative of the President of Russia for the Middle East, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony upon Assad's arrival at Vnukovo airport in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2023. (SANA via AP)
Visiting Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Mikhail Bogdanov, right, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Special Representative of the President of Russia for the Middle East, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony upon Assad's arrival at Vnukovo airport in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2023. (SANA via AP)

The deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey will hold a summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, later this month.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced that the meeting will be held on June 21, the RIA news agency reported Wednesday.

Foreign ministers from those four countries gathered in May for talks in Moscow in what was the highest-level contact between Ankara and Damascus since the start of the Syrian civil war over a decade ago.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time he hoped the meeting would pave the way to drafting a road map for normalizing Turkish-Syrian relations. Lavrov said he sees Moscow’s task as “not only in consolidating politically the progress that has been made, but also in determining general guidelines for further movement.”

Russia has spent years trying to help Syrian President Bashar Assad rebuild ties with Turkey and other countries that were fractured in the war, which killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million.

Russia intervened militarily in Syria starting in September 2015, teaming up with Iran to help Assad’s government to reclaim most of the country. Moscow has maintained a military presence in the Mideast country even as the bulk of its forces are busy fighting in Ukraine.

Throughout the 12-year conflict, Turkey has backed armed opposition groups seeking to remove Assad from power. The Syrian government has frequently denounced Ankara’s hold over parts of a northwest enclave previously seized by Assad’s opponents. Turkey captured the territory through several military incursions since 2016 against US-backed Kurdish forces.

The efforts toward Turkish-Syrian reconciliation come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under intense pressure at home to send Syrian refugees back amid a steep economic downturn and increasing anti-refugee sentiment. He was recently reelected to office.

Following a deadly earthquake in February that killed tens of thousands of people in Syria and Turkey, regional normalization with Damascus began to accelerate. In April, Moscow hosted the defense ministers of Turkey, Syria and Iran for talks that it said focused on “practical steps to strengthen security in the Syrian Arab Republic and to normalize Syrian-Turkish relations.”

Most Popular
read more: