Opposition downplays summit outcome

ISTANBUL: A four-way summit on the conflict in Syria hosted by Turkey has made “no breakthrough” towards peace in the war-torn country, an opposition official said.
Leaders from Turkey, Germany, France and Russia agreed after talks in Istanbul on Saturday that a committee to draft a constitution in Syria should be ready by the end of this year.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s government, allied with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, has so far rejected any efforts to rewrite the constitution, saying it is an internal affair.
“I do not think the summit marked a breakthrough for the peace process because the Russian president has not yet given the green-light to Assad to engage in the political process,” Ahmed Ramadan, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said. “So far, the (Syrian) regime has not taken any step to facilitate the work of the constitutional committee or the political process,” he added.
The opposition insists on a new constitution as key to paving the way for elections in Syria.
Russia is a key military ally of Assad, whose forces have in recent months made territorial gains against rebels and militants in different parts of Syria.
Last month, Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a buffer zone between the Syrian military and rebel areas in the Idlib region on Turkey’s border — a move that prevented a major offensive by the Syrian government.
Idlib, located in north-western Syria, is the opposition’s last major stronghold in the country.
“The summit provided a sort of a common guarantee between Turkey and Russia on the one hand and the Germans and France on the other for the continuing application of the Idlib agreement,” Ramadan said.
Also on Sunday, Turkish state-owned news agency Anadolu reported that Turkish forces had bombarded positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area to the west of the Aynal-Arab region and was aimed at preventing “terrorist activities,” Anadolu said.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s military on Sunday fired artillery shells at a Kurdish militia in Syria that is backed by the United States but deemed a terrorist group by Ankara, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The shells targeted “shelters” of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates River in the Kobane region of northern Syria, Anadolu said.
The strikes come a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a summit in Istanbul on the Syrian conflict with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany, in which they adopted a joint statement committing to work “together in order to create conditions for peace and stability in Syria”.
It also follows numerous threats by Erdogan to launch a new offensive in Syria east of the Euphrates.
Anadolu reported that the strikes targeted YPG positions and trenches on a hill near the eastern bank of the Euphrates, across the river from the city of Jarablus. The YPG is an ally of the US in the fight against the IS group and holds swathes of northern and northeastern Syria.
However Ankara is bitterly opposed to the YPG, regarding it as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey since 1984. — Agencies