Syrian officials remain adamant about participating in the meeting without first receiving guarantees from Turkiye to end its occupation of northern Syria
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on 21 March that the Kremlin is coordinating with Syria, Iran, and Turkiye on a date for a four-way meeting of their deputy foreign ministers.
Bogdanov also denied claims made last week by an anonymous Turkish official, who said the four-way summit had been “postponed” at the last minute over “technical reasons.”
“We haven’t agreed on anything yet, so there’s nothing to postpone,” the Russian official was cited as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
“We proceed from the fact that it should take place the sooner, the better. But our colleagues, the Syrians, the Turks, and the Iranians, have their work plans and timetables. While there is no specific date, we will continue to coordinate,” Bogdanov added.
The four-way meeting was set to take place on 16 March, one day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
It was first announced earlier this month by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said it would serve as a prelude to planned talks between foreign ministers aimed at “resolving the crisis in Syria.”
Turkiye has remained a key participant in the US-backed war on Syria that began in 2011. Washington and its regional allies, including Ankara, armed and funded militias, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front and ISIS, to topple the Syrian government.
Ankara also occupies sections of Syria’s north and has previously tried to annex large swathes of the region.
According to a report by the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan published on 14 March, Damascus sought guarantees from Turkiye “to announce a withdrawal schedule from Syrian territory and to stop supporting terrorist groups” before officially announcing its participation in the Russian-hosted meeting.
The Nusra Front, now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, has remained in control of Idlib governorate with continued Turkish support.
In 2019, Turkiye reorganized what was left of the various Salafist militias formerly comprising the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to form the Syrian National Army (SNA), which also occupies territory in northwestern Syria near Aleppo. The SNA continues to function as Turkiye’s proxy.