Turkish, Russian, French and German leaders are gathering in Istanbul to discuss the future of Syria at the weekend. Germany has clear objectives — and perhaps more to offer than you might think.
The situation around Idlib is likely to be a key aspect of the international Syria summit this Saturday. Participants include Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany. It is expected that discussions will also focus on a new constitution for Syria, or the formation of a constituent assembly to compose one.
Germans committed to ceasefire
During the meeting, Germany is likely to focus on the refugee issue, Kristian Brakel, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Istanbul, told DW: "Together with Turkey, Germany wants to make sure that Syrians stop setting out for neighboring Turkey. At this point, Turkey already accommodates more than 3 million Syrian refugees. For this reason, Turkey and, indirectly, also Germany were already rather concerned about a military offensive targeting Idlib."
Idlib is close to Syria’s border with Turkey.
Both Turkey and Germany are under pressure because of the refugee issue. In Turkey’s east, riots break out time and again because of the refugees, Brakel told DW. In Germany, the refugee issue didn’t just play a considerable role in September 2017 general elections. It remains an influential factor in regional state elections too, even if several political parties prefer to skirt around the issue. "Both sides — Germany as well as Turkey — are interested in keeping the situation at least stable enough that further mass exoduses of people fleeing Syria do not become likely," Brakel said.
The role of a new constitution
Linked, indirectly, to the debate on Idlib is the issue of a new constitution. Agreeing to one would send an important message, both domestically and abroad. The shape of any new constitution is liable to have significant influence on many Syrian refugees deciding whether they wish to return home at some point or stay where they are, if possible. By the same token, it is likely to have a bearing on how quickly the country can be pacified and stabilized when the fighting is over.
In September, seven western and Arabic nations, including Germany, called on the United Nations to pave the way for a draft constitution as quickly as possible. The declaration called for the establishment of a committee with representatives from all sides in the conflict. The stated aim was to lay the foundation for free and fair elections under UN supervision in which all Syrians who are eligible to vote — including those who had fled the country — were allowed to participate. Thus far, the Syrian regime has rejected calls for an international drafting of the constitution. The regime’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem was quoted by state media describing the issue as an entirely "sovereign" Syrian matter.
Based on DW