According to Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev, with Joe Biden in office, the US stance on Syria underwent some changes and became clearer.
“If previously, the policy of maximum pressure on Syria was the order of the day, hoping that it would whip up discontent among the civilian population, along with a wave of protests and regime change, by now they’ve realized that this is not working, this shouldn’t be counted on and it is necessary to work on the enhancement of humanitarian assistance. They also admit that the stabilization of Syria’s situation, as they say, is possible through providing humanitarian assistance,” the envoy added.
In particular, the diplomat noted the preparation of international projects that should provide Syria with additional income.
“So far, there are no specifics, for now, it is still on paper but the Americans have already approved the implementation of gas delivery projects from Egypt via Syria to Lebanon and electric power from Jordan through Syria to Lebanon. If this is a transit [arrangement], then Syria as the transit country should receive a certain income,” he explained.
It is a great advantage of Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara in promoting the Syrian settlement within the framework of the Astana format that they are present “on the ground” and enjoy real influence on the political process, Lavrentiev stated.
“It is our advantage that Russia, Turkey, and Iran are present on the ground. We enjoy certain influence on the situation that is taking shape on the ground and on advancing the political process,” he said.
In the meantime, the members of the Small Group of the Constitutional Committee tend to “get together, have a chat, make charges, call for accusing the Syrian authorities of all conceivable and unconceivable crimes further on and go”, Lavrentiev continued, adding, “They are not expected to produce any tangible influence on the situation.”
The Russian envoy stressed that over the years the Astana process has been underway Russia had developed a “very business-like and strong relationship” with the Iranian and Turkish counterparts, which allow for discussing “frankly and in a climate of trust any issues, however, delicate and sensitive.”
“Constructive cooperation with Iran and Turkey goes on,” he noted.
The agenda of the Astana format summit (Russia, Iran and Turkey) will be aimed at achieving more tangible progress in efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria, the Russian special presidential envoy for Syria said.
“The agenda is the following: if a summit takes place, the parties consider the situation in efforts to resolve the Syria issue and interaction between the three guarantor countries in this direction. This is the main agenda that will be there. Our presidents will discuss what needs to be done to ensure more tangible progress with regard to the Syrian settlement. Accordingly, they will later instruct their envoys to continue this work,” Lavrentyev stated.
Lavrentyev confirmed that the summit might take place in the Iranian capital of Tehran in early 2022.
“It will be held early next year, that’s for sure, though the process has slowed down due to coronavirus restrictions. The decision to hold the next summit in Tehran was confirmed a year and a half ago. However, we cannot announce a specific month and day,” the envoy added.
At the same time, in his words, the summit will have to be held in person.
“An online summit took place in July last year. A year and a half have passed since then so we believe that it is necessary to hold an in-person meeting. Our president [Vladimir Putin] has talked about it with Iranian President [Ebrahim] Raisi and Mr. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” Lavrentyev noted.
According to him, the summit is likely to be preceded by an in-person meeting of the foreign ministers of the guarantor countries.
“When it comes to such meetings, they should be held in person. The reason is that the issues on the agenda are quite sensitive and it’s not reasonable to discuss them via video conference,” he stressed.
“The meeting will probably take place in Tehran or in Turkey. However, the summit itself will be held in Tehran because it is now Iran’s turn to host the event,” Lavrentyev emphasized.
When asked when the next international Astana meeting on Syria would take place, the Russian presidential envoy said that it depended on when the Russia-Iran-Turkey summit was held.
“If we manage to arrange it this spring, for instance, then our Astana format meeting will follow right away. This is how we view the situation. The presidents need to meet, talk, and outline avenues for future cooperation and order the relevant agencies to deal with the matter via the Astana platform. We will gather later to discuss specific mechanisms to implement the instructions that we will receive from our presidents,” the diplomat concluded.
Senior Assistant to Iranian Foreign Minister for Special Political Affairs Ali Asghar Khaji told TASS on the sidelines of an international meeting on Syria earlier that Iran, Russia, and Turkey had agreed to hold a summit in Tehran in February or March 2022 depending on the coronavirus situation. The Iranian diplomatic official also noted that the summit would be preceded by a meeting between the three countries’ top diplomats, slated for January or early February 2022.