Moscow to host meeting of Turkish, Russian, Syrian, and Iranian foreign ministers in early May: Turkish FM

“A meeting of the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria is expected to take place in Moscow in early May.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo: Anadolu News Agency)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo: Anadolu News Agency)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, a potential meeting of the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria is expected to take place in Moscow in early May, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported on Monday. 

As reported by the government-affiliated Syrian Arabic language newspaper Al-Watan, the Russian Ambassador to Syria also confirmed that the quadripartite meeting involving the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, which was initially planned for April 10, 2023, has been delayed and is now anticipated to be held in early May 2023.

Last week, a quadripartite meeting of the assistant foreign ministers of Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey took place in Moscow. No specific outcomes from the meeting were announced. 

Read More: Turkey willing to work with Syria and Russia: Erdogan

In December of last year, for the first time in ten years, defense ministers and intelligence chiefs from Turkey, Russia, and Syria convened in Moscow and reached an agreement to sustain tripartite meetings, aimed at securing stability in Syria and the broader region.

Iran was later added to these discussions based on Turkey’s interest in including their participation.

The upcoming meeting of the foreign ministers would serve to further reestablish high-level talks between Turkey and Syria, which have been interrupted since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Initially, Turkey had endorsed the ousting of the Syrian government and had provided support to rebel factions in Syria, opposing the government in Damascus.

Turkey and the Turkish-backed opposition groups control large parts of northwest Syria.

Despite Moscow's efforts to facilitate talks between Turkey and Syria and encourage a potential agreement between the two rivals, significant differences persist on both sides.

According to Dr. Ayman Sousan, the Assistant Foreign and Expatriates Minister, who was quoted by the Syrian state news agency, SANA, Syria's objectives during these talks include the cessation of Turkish military presence on Syrian soil, counteracting terrorism, and the prevention of external interference in Syrian internal affairs.

He also suggested in a speech before the meeting on April 4, that Syria would be willing to jointly cooperate with Turkey against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and affiliated groups. 

“Sousan added that this will open the door for coordination and joint action to confront separatist plans and entities in northeast Syria,” SANA reported.

Syrian Kurdish officials have expressed suspicion towards Russia’s attempt to reconcile Turkey and Syria.

Turkey aims to put an end to the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in Syria, while Syria seeks to eliminate the presence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and wants to retake control of all the territories it lost during the civil war. 

Russia, on the other hand, has been advocating for the withdrawal of US troops from the region. 

Iran, Turkey, and Syria also agree that the presence of US troops must come to an end. But so far, Turkey has been reluctant to give up support to the Syrian opposition.

Aron Lund, a fellow at Century International, told Kurdistan 24 that although Turkish FM Cavusoglu says a foreign ministers meeting might take place in May, it is still not confirmed. 

“We’ve seen this before. Before the deputy foreign minister level meeting earlier this month, the Russians kept saying for weeks that a meeting was about to happen,” Lund said.

“They even put out information that it was scheduled for mid-March. But that ended up being nixed by Assad, whose hardline position is likely reinforced by Iran. In the end, the meeting didn’t happen until early April. So until we hear from the Syrian side that this will actually take place, I don’t think it’s a done deal.”

Moreover, he added that both Turkey and Syria want different things from these meetings. “Erdogan wants these meetings to happen before the Turkish elections in May to help him with votes. Assad knows this and will only agree if he can gain something for himself. By stalling, he builds more leverage.” 

“Even so, Assad may feel that he should get the normalization ball rolling before the Turkish elections. It’s not obvious that Erdogan would feel the same urgency after the elections, so postponing the date could be a gamble for the Syrians,” he concluded.