Turkey obstructs efforts to include China in the Astana mechanism of Syrian resolution process

China wants to become a participant of the Astana format

China plans to become a full-fledged participant in the Astana process to resolve the situation in Syria and has already discussed this issue with Moscow. This was reported to the "Izvestia" by a high-ranking Chinese diplomat in charge of the region of the Middle East. However, for the time being, among all the participants - and this, besides Russia, Iran and Turkey - "there is no consensus on China's participation." Resists the involvement of Beijing in the Astana process Turkey, explained to Izvestia the Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Mustafa. According to him, Ankara fears that with the involvement of China, pressure on Turkey will intensify due to suspicions of supporting cross-border terrorist groups, including those operating in Chinese Xinjiang.

The so-called Astana format was formed in January 2017 on the initiative of Russia, Turkey and Iran, who decided to bring together representatives of the authorities and the armed opposition in Syria at one negotiating table. Representatives of China waited for an invitation to become observers even then, but in 2017 Beijing did not receive it. But this year, when representatives of the opposing Syrian forces, under the auspices of the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey, gathered during the meeting in Astana at the Sochi Congress of the National Dialogue of Syria, China took part in it as an observer. Now Beijing is actively advocating to join the process of the Syrian peace settlement as the fourth participant.

- China today takes an increasingly active position in international affairs. If we were invited to participate in the Astana / Sochi format (as the fourth participant), we would be extremely positive about such a proposal. We discussed this topic with our Russian friends - the Russian Federation is not against our participation. But this process is not only Russia - there are other participants in it, and obviously there is no consensus on the participation of the PRC among them, - a high-ranking Chinese diplomat admitted in a conversation with Izvestia.

Specifying directly who exactly - Iran or Turkey - resists the connection of Beijing as a full participant in the peace talks on Syria, the representative of the PRC did not. At the same time, Ambassador of Syria in China Imad Mustafa told Izvestia that Ankara is the opponent of Beijing's joining the "triangle".

- There is one serious obstacle for China's more active role - Turkey's opposition to any expansion of the tripartite format. Ankara fears that with the accession of China, pressure will be exerted on Turkey demanding to stop supporting cross-border terrorist groups, including the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, and show more respect for the territorial sovereignty of Syria, the diplomat said, implying in the latter case a military operation of the Turkish military in Syrian Africa.

Suspicions of Ankara's support for the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (ETIM) have been clouding relations between China and Turkey for several years. Established in 1993 and operating in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China (in Russia the movement was recognized as a terrorist organization since 2003), the IFES has been fighting for independence from China for many years. In total, the movement suspected of having links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban (organizations banned in Russia) has already claimed responsibility for about 200 terrorist attacks.

Ankara, acting as a defender of the Muslim and primarily the Turkic world, condemned acts of terrorism, while openly expressing sympathy for the Uyghur Muslims. In 2012, his first visit to China as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his demonstration from the city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. And in 2015, the decision of the Chinese authorities to prohibit Uyghur Muslims from committing religious pilgrimages to Ramadan and conducting religious rituals during this Muslim holy month were met by Turkey with a call of the PRC Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry and massive anti-Chinese protests in several Turkish cities.

The problem of Uyghur separatism for China is complicated by the fact that with the outbreak of the war in Syria, about 5 thousand Uighur militants have leaked there, according to Damascus. In Beijing, they fear that the combat experience gained in Syria can later be used for terrorist activities already in the PRC. This partly explains the spirit of the Chinese authorities for closer cooperation with the Syrians, including the security line.

Indirect evidence that of the three participants in the Astana platform can be objected only to Turkey, we can also consider Iran's position.

"Iran not only did not oppose China's participation in the Astana process on Syria, but was the first country to invite China to Astana as an observer, but then rejected this idea," the advisor to Iran's foreign minister, former director of the Institute of Political and international studies of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Rasul Seyed Mousavi.

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, China has actively participated in providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian victims of the war. According to the estimates of the Chinese government's special envoy for Syria, Xie Xiaoyang (the post was established in March 2016 in addition to the post of special envoy for the Middle East), for several years the total amount of humanitarian and financial assistance to Beijing of Syria amounted to $ 116 million. Meanwhile, the PRC is ready to further help Syria , and not only for humanitarian assistance.

"China is ready to attract its companies to the restoration work in Syria as soon as the security situation there improves," Xieoyan said at the end of April during his next visit to Moscow, where he discussed Syria's topic with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov.

According to Xie Xiaoyan, Syria's post-war reconstruction will require about $ 260 billion and China, as a responsible world power, will do its bit in this costly process.

Last year, the PRC government announced the initiative to invest about $ 2 billion in the construction of an industrial park in Syria with the connection of 150 Chinese companies. It was also announced that Huawei could work on reconstruction of the Syrian telecommunications infrastructure. In addition, along with Russian and Iranian Chinese companies have become the main participants of the International Exhibition in Damascus in September 2017 - the first exhibition of this kind since the beginning of the war.

The growing interest of Beijing in the situation in Syria is largely due to the fact that one of the priority tasks of China in the near future is to implement the ambitious project One Belt One Way, within which the PRC plans to build a railway network linking Asia and Europe. And one of the most convenient geographic variants of the route lies through the Middle East region, namely through Turkey or Syria.


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