İLNUR ÇEVIK @ilnurcevik
A meaningful peace process for Syria has been set in motion thanks to efforts from Russia, Turkey and Iran.
The Astana peace process resulted first is a temporary cease-fire in Syria, which later became permanent and finally led the creation of no-conflict zones. Is everything solved? Not at all. The fighting in some areas continues due to the intransigent attitude of the Syrian regime led by Bashar Assad and due to the desire of some opposition factions to gain a territorial advantage to increase their bargaining power at the peace table. But there is a general positive mood that the light at the end of the tunnel is already visible.
The Astana peace process led to the summit hosted by Russia and attended by Turkish and Iranian officials in the city of Sochi where the representatives of the three countries discussed ways to chart a future course for Syria. That is being followed up now with the summit in Ankara. Ankara will discuss how to move ahead with the peace process, consolidate the no-conflict zones and start discussing a future constitution for Syria. A similar summit will also be held in Iran in the future.The three countries are expected to emphasize that Syria must remain united with its territorial integrity preserved. That is bad news for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants who were trying to create a PKK-controlled statelet in the north of the country sponsored by the United States.
Ankara wants all the interested parties to help create some form of viable democratic order in Syria based on majority rule and then hand over Syria to the Syrian people and pull out of the country.
Turkey has liberated the Afrin region in the northwest of the country and chased out the YPG after liberating a chunk of land west of the Euphrates by defeating the Daesh terrorists there. Turkey did not come to these areas to conquer land, but to put an end to the terrorist presence there. Turkey will now help rebuild the administrative infrastructure in these areas and then hand them to their Kurdish and Arab owners. Turkey expects all the other parties involved in Syria to do the same.
Moscow has a special deal with Damascus that allowed them to establish two bases on the Mediterranean coast, and they should be allowed to stay provided they reach a similar agreement with the future administrators of Syria.
The U.S. has collaborated with the YPG despite Ankara’s objections, but will have to leave sooner or later.
Syria also has to be rid of the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia. The former Kurdish politicians of Syria should be allowed to come back and start representing the Kurdish people of Syria in the place of the PYD. Of course, that is easier said than done. The YPG has killed, terrorized and forced many Kurdish politicians out of the region. Now they have to be persuaded to come back.Turkey, Russia and Iran have started a good process that has yielded meaningful results. Now they have to show to the world that they can produce peace and forge a political solution. That is the massive challenge ahead.