Syria is again largely under Assad's control, the rest is under the control of Turkish troops, rebels or Kurds. Turkish President Erdogan wants to combat the latter militarily, with the help of Russia and Iran. However, their heads of state are reticent in this regard at a summit meeting.
Russia, Iran and Turkey want to work more closely together in Syria. In a joint declaration in Tehran on Tuesday, the heads of state of the three countries committed themselves to fighting "terrorists" in Syria together. Vladimir Putin, Ebrahim Raisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan accordingly rejected "all illegitimate self-determination initiatives" by groups in the region. It is about preserving both the sovereignty and integrity of Syria and the security of neighboring countries. Putin called for more unity in Syria policy and accused the West of interfering. According to the President, this "set course for the dismemberment of the country".
The summit meeting of the three presidents at the invitation of the Iranian Raisi was part of the so-called Astana peace process, which the three countries had started in 2017. However, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara are pursuing very different interests in Syria. While Russia and Iran support the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, Turkey is on the side of some rebel groups.
At the meeting, Erdogan reinforced his threat to launch new military actions against Kurdish groups in Syria. "We will continue our fight against the terrorists shortly," he said. "We expect Russia and Iran to support us in the fight against terrorism." He referred to a 2019 agreement with Russia and the United States, according to which both countries should help push Kurdish fighters out of the Syrian-Turkish border area. "That still hasn't happened," said Erdogan. "It's long overdue." Iran is unlikely to help in this regard either, as Raisi made clear: "Iran believes that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is a political one and that military action is not only ineffective but will aggravate the situation," he said in his graduation speech.
Since the end of May, the Turkish President has been threatening to launch a new offensive against Kurdish groups in the region. Turkey is targeting several locations controlled by the Syrian-Kurdish organization YPG. This is classified as a terrorist organization by the government in Ankara, but was supported by the USA and the international coalition in the fight against the jihadist militia Islamic State (IS).
Both Moscow and Tehran had previously indicated that they would not condone Turkish military action. This could worsen the situation in the region, affirmed Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who also met with Erdogan on Tuesday. "We consider security in Syria to be our own security and Turkey should do the same," Khamenei said. It was initially not clear whether the trilateral summit declaration reflected a change in Iran's attitude towards a possible Turkish offensive.