Difficulties of Astana format
Today Vladimir Putin is goind to visit Iran to attend 3rd trilateral meeting between leaders of countries-guarantors of the Astana process. During the talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they will discuss joint efforts on long-term normalization of situation in Syria. They will talk about complex measures aimed at complete elimination of local bases of international terrorists, promotion of political settlement process and resolution of humanitarian issues, including creation of conditions for return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Commenting on the upcoming summit, senior lecturer at the Department of Political Science of the Higher School of Economics, Grigory Lukyanov, said that they also will discuss the problem of Idlib: "This trilateral format will discuss possibility of making specific decisions not only on this particular issues, the territory of Idlib, but also other significant issues, including regarding what will happen after the Idlib project is over."
Lukyanov recalled that from legal standpoint, Idlib is considered de-escalation zone: "Russian side has always urged not to exaggerate significance of de-escalation zones, since it's just a temporary measure, and the main goal is still fight against terrorism. Idlib's fate as de-escalation zone in the eyes of Russian and Syrian leadership is very simple - foreign militants are staying in Idlib, and Russia intervened in the Syrian crisis in order to defeat them. They elimination, not negotiations on terms of their surrender, becomes an extremely important task that must be resolved by the military."
As for Turkey, Lukyanov believes that it's main concern is participation of specific groups in political settlement, formation of authorities and rules for political settlement: "It's more important for Turkey not to preserve a buffer, but to play an active role in formation of new authorities in Syria in the so-called post-conflict reconstruction and settlement."
Deputy director of the Forecasting and Political Settlement Institute, Alexander Kuznetsov, thinks that we may see some progress in Turkey's position and more loyal attitude: "It will be painful for Ankara, since last enclave where Turkey has political influence in Syria will disappear, pro-Turkish groups are strong there. Perhaps Russia and Iran could help Turkey to resolve refugee problem - after Syrian government completely regains control over the entire territory of Syria, refugees will return, including from Turkey. 3.5 million Syrians are a huge burden for Turkish economy, which isn't in a best condition right now.
In addition, it's very important for Turkish companies to have contracts abroad. Turks actively worked in many countries of the Middle East before the so-called "Arab Spring", but because they supported the Muslim Brotherhood (and the Muslim Brotherhood wasn't able to come to power in any country), Turkish companies lost contracts in Egypt, Libya, which is in a state of chaos and civil war, in Syria and Iraq. Turkish businessmen are hoping to return to Syria."