Leaders call for new constitution and elections in Syria at summit

World Today

Trying to build on a fragile ceasefire in Syria, the leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met in Istanbul on Saturday. They released a joint statement, focusing on refugees and the long-term enforcement of a ceasefire in Idlib Province. They also called for a committee to draft a new constitution before the end of the year, ‘paving the way for free-and-fair elections.’

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid has more from Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted the four-way summit on Syria in Istanbul. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron attended, along with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

The main aim of the meeting was to discuss a roadmap for a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Turkey and Russia have already been working very closely on Syria – the two brokered a deal in September regarding Idlib province that prevented a full blown assault in the area.

Ankara and Moscow had agreed for radical groups to withdraw and heavy weapons to be pulled out of a demilitarized zone in Idlib–a process that is still underway. All of the leaders voiced support for a continued ceasefire in the area and hailed the deal for preventing a new humanitarian crisis. Putin, however, made clear that Russia would take action if any radical groups engage in armed provocations. Syrian refugees were also on the agenda. Erdogan called on the EU for more support.

“I would like to reiterate that we expect the European Union to fulfill its promises on fair burden-sharing,” Erdogan said. “I call on other countries to increase their support for Syrian people’s needs bearing in mind that winter is coming.”

Leaders called for the establishment of a committee by the end of this year that would create Syria’s post-war constitution under the supervision of the U.N. Regarding the future of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad – Erdogan said it would be up to the people of Syria to decide his fate.

French President Macron emphasized the leaders’ opposition to use of chemical weapons, which was also spelled out in the joint statement. Macron said cooperation among all involved parties will be vital.

“We are all extremely vigilant to ensure that these commitments are met and that the ceasefire is stable and sustainable,” he said. “We are on the same page with the President Erdogan’s plans on intelligence sharing and humanitarian aid, and we rely on Russia to put pressure on the Syrian regime.”

The leaders also expressed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria while stating the need to create the conditions for refugees to safely and voluntarily return to their country.