This Saturday's Syrian Summit in Istanbul will see the leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany gathering to discuss the war-torn country's refugee, constitutional reform, and reconstruction issues as the world tries to finally hammer out a comprehensive and multilateral solution to this long-running conflict. Russia and Turkey are part of the Astana framework while France and Germany are regarded as members of the so-called "Small Group on Syria" that also counts among its members the US and some Arab states. This pragmatic meeting between the two "camps", for lack of a better word, will assess the state of affairs in Syria and see if some common ground can be reached.
The two European Great Powers are most immediately concerned with Syrian refugees because of how heavily politicized the issue has become, but they've hitherto been reluctant to repatriate these individuals back to their homeland out of what they claim is the fear that they might be "persecuted" upon their return. This segues into one of the reasons why they want to ensure progress on Syria's UNSC 2254-mandated constitutional reform, which in turn could be incentivized if they broke ranks with the US and committed to investing in the country's post-war reconstruction. The situation isn't as black and white as that, however, because the "devil's in the details", as always.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has thus far succeeded in restoring the sovereignty of the democratically elected and legitimate government over the most populated portions of the country, but has struggled with this in Idlib and the Northeast, where the battle lines remain frozen per official and unofficial agreements between Russia & Turkey and Russia & the US, respectively. A political solution therefore appears to be the only way out of this impasse, but Damascus wants to return to its pre-war centralized state while some of its opponents want to decentralize it. Furthermore, there are differences between Astana partners Russia and Turkey over the proper way forward.
What everyone seems to agree upon, however, is that Syria urgently needs reconstruction aid, though the "Small Group on Syria" wants to make this conditional on progress being made on constitutional reform, while Turkey has no interest investing in the liberated areas of the country at all. Moreover, Damascus previously said that it won't accept aid from any of the countries responsible for its conflict, but circumstances might compel it to change its tune. Therefore, it looks like the politics of post-war reconstruction aid will take precedence over the other two issues because everything seems to proceed from there, though all three are nevertheless closely interconnected.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Brecht Jonkers, historian and journalist, and Navid Nasr, Independent analyst based in Maryland.
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