Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents may meet to discuss Syria

Published 07.02.2018 23:26

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are in regular contact to discuss the conflict in Syria, the Kremlin said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters by phone, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that the leaders did not rule out the possibility of an in-person meeting on the topic, though no plans are currently in place.

Iran's president, on the other hand, says Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin does not serve the interests of any country in the region.

"Like before, cooperation is necessary and should be continued and improved until the final victory of the Syrian people over terrorists," Rouhani said, overlooking the presence of PKK-affiliated groups, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People's Protection Units (YPG), in Afrin.

Iran has been main backer of Assad regime since the beginning of Syrian civil war, triggered by regime's crack-down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity in 2011. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict since then, mainly in regime airstrikes targeting opposition

-held areas, while millions more have been displaced.

Rouhani also underlined that the dialogue between Turkey and Iran was "at its top," adding that the two countries joined by Russia could organize a tripartite meeting to discuss the ongoing Syrian crisis. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu arrived Wednesday afternoon in Tehran and conducted high-level meetings, including with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

No statements were released after the meetings, but bilateral relations and regional issues were reportedly discussed. Çavuşoğlu also said on Tuesday in a TV interview that Turkey and Russia have no disagreements over Operation Olive Branch into Afrin and the two countries are in close contact over the operation. "We do not have any disagreements with Russia. We continue our contacts," he said when asked about possible tensions with Moscow over Afrin. "We need to inform each other in a timely manner, especially (regarding) airstrikes and the developments in the field. We contact them in real time or in advance." He also said Turkish forces had finished building a sixth observation point in Syria's Idlib region. Under a deal reached with Tehran and Moscow to try to reduce fighting between pro-Assad forces and opposition fighters in northwestern Syria, Turkey has agreed to set up 12 observation posts in Idlib and neighboring provinces. The Turkish military established observation points in Idlib as part of the de-escalation zone deal reached during Astana peace process, backed by Turkey, Russia and Iran. The aim of the observation posts is to establish, monitor and sustain the current cease-fire in the de-escalation zones, deliver humanitarian aid to persons in need and to ensure the secure return of displaced people.

No contacts with Syrian regime Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said yesterday that the Assad regime continues to violate the de-escalation zone deal in Syria agreed during Astana peace process, especially in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib.

"We once again call on all parties to intervene to successfully implement de-escalation zones," Kalın said. "PYD/YPG terrorists called on the Assad regime last week for help against Turkey after the damage they suffered in Afrin. This shows how the terror group has dirty connections with every country and every actor when it suits them. This is a clear message to the U.S. administration," Kalın stated. "No contacts between Turkey and the Assad regime have been made and no contacts are on the agenda now," he added. Kalın further expressed that Turkey is working on organizing a trilateral leaders' summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran to discuss the Sochi and Astana meetings on Syria. "This could take place shortly," he said.

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