Turkey, Russia and Iran’s joint statement rejects Kurds’ ‘separatist’ agenda in Syria

Turkish, Russian, and Iranian leaders released a joint statement regarding the situation in Syria in a trilateral summit organised in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Aug. 2.

The 13th round of meetings on Syria was focused on the situation in Idlib, the last rebel-held enclave in Syria, and northern Syria controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, as well as the situation in northern Syria, where Kurdish-led autonomous areas are under threat of Turkish attack.

An agreement signed by Turkey and Russia last September prevented regime attacks on the province, which is home to an estimated 3 million people, including hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Assad regime forces backed by Russia have launched intensive bombing and ground attacks this year on Idlib after Moscow said Turkey had failed to live up to its agreement to remove “extremist” opposition groups from the agreement’s de-escalation zone in southern Idlib.

The jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham, which includes fighters from al Qaeda-linked groups, has become a dominant force in the province since the agreement was signed.

The statement said the leaders at the meeting had "reviewed in detail the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area and highlighted the necessity to establish calm on the ground by fully implementing all agreements on Idlib, first and foremost the Memorandum of 17 September 2018."

But all parties will continue cooperation to eliminate blacklisted armed groups in Idlib while increasing efforts to ensure the protection of the civilian population, the statement continued.

The three countries also declared their opposition to the autonomous regions set up by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, saying in the statement that they “rejected … all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism.”

The Kurdish groups established a large, self-governing territory in the north and east of Syria after driving the Islamic State (ISIS) out of the area.

Turkey opposes the groups for their links to Kurdish militants fighting for self-rule in Turkey, while Russia and Iran wish for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control of the entire country.

In response to a question on guaranteeing the rights of the Kurdish people in the Syrian constitution, the head of the Russian delegation, Alexander Lavrentev, said Moscow was encouraging dialogue between the autonomous administrations and the government in Damascus.

"We support the dialogue and this makes our position different from the positions of the rest of the parties," he said.

The Syrian Kurds began talks with Damascus following the U.S. President Donald Trump's abrupt Dec. 19 announcement that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria.

Trump’s announcement has since been rowed back, but the Kurdish forces are still in danger of attack from Turkey, which has declared its intention to launch a military operation to clear their presence from its border.