Unprecedented Summit of Four in Istanbul reveals unbridged, irreconcilable differences between Russia and the West over Syria
29 October 2018
The summit meeting of the German chancellor and the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France in Istanbul this past Saturday has rightfully been called “unprecedented” by the world press. It was the first time Putin, Macron and Merkel sat together since the last G-20. It was the first meeting of two very different groups of backers of a Syrian settlement: the Astana Group, represented by Russia, and the so-called Small Group, represented by France and Germany. But by a conspiracy of silence its net results have been reduced by global media to the hopeful and empty generalization that “the solution to the Syrian crisis can only be political, not military” while the irreconcilable differences among the parties over how to structure the political process and what it will lead to remain unstated. Unstated not only by the French, German and Turkish media, but also by the Russian media, for which I take last night’s News of the Week with Dimitri Kiselyov on the state channel Rossiya-1 as my marker.
Germany And France Just Broke The US Boycott Of Syria
There weren’t exactly any breakthroughs at the four-way summit involving France, Germany, Russia, and host Turkey in Istanbul on Saturday, but the event itself was a significant victory for one side in terms of optics.
Says Syria expert Joshua Landis: “The real importance of France and Germany going to Turkey to meet Putin and Erdogan is that they are effectively hiving off from the US by joining the Astana process.” Ultimately, according Professor Landis:They are breaking the boycott of Syria, while preserving the “need for elections” talking point. Alas, as the photo op of summit participants suggests, the United States has indeed effectively been cut out of the Russia and UN-brokered Astana processto bring Syria’s war to a close— which has both set the terms for the current shaky Idlib ceasefire agreement, and brought Turkey and Russia into an orbit of cooperation to seek long-term peace and stability. Notably Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron now see the Russia-Turkey deal on Idlib as the only workable track that could stave off another mass refugee and jihadi influx into Europe, already reeling from a years-long migrant crisis.