Turkey, Russia and Iran on Tuesday vowed to continue their cooperation to "eliminate terrorists" in Syria, in a trilateral statement after their presidents met in Tehran.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Ebrahim Raisi gathered in Iran's capital Tehran for the 7th summit in the Astana format to discuss the recent developments in Syria, the fight against the terrorist groups, particularly PKK, its Syrian branch YPG and Daesh, which pose a threat to the regional security, the humanitarian situation, and the voluntarily return of the Syrians to their homes.
The three countries "reaffirmed the determination to continue their ongoing cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate terrorist individuals, groups, undertakings and entities," the statement read.
They "expressed their opposition to the illegal seizure and transfer of oil revenues that should belong to Syria".
They also "rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives, and expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas" in Syria.
Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders also condemned the increased presence and activities of terrorist groups and their affiliates under different names in various parts of Syria.
They expressed their determination to stand against "separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and threatening the national security of neighboring countries," including through cross-border attacks and infiltrations.
Erdoğan, Putin, and Raisi said that security and stability in the region can only be achieved on the basis of the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
The statement also said the leaders reviewed in detail the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area and stressed that it is necessary to maintain calm on the ground with all agreements on Idlib fully implemented, agreeing to make further efforts to ensure sustainable normalization of the situation in and around the Idlib de-escalation area, including the humanitarian situation.
The leaders said there could be "no military solution to the Syrian conflict" and that "it could only be resolved through the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, United Nations-facilitated political process in line with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254."
The presidents agreed to hold the next trilateral summit in Russia at the invitation of Putin.
The Astana peace process was launched in January 2017 at the initiative of Turkey, Russia and Iran to establish a cease-fire and bring conflict processes under control in Syria. The Astana initiative continues to be used as a platform where political and humanitarian issues are discussed.
The trilateral statement was released after Erdoğan urged his Russian and Iranian counterparts to back Turkey’s efforts to fight "terrorism" in Syria.
The PKK terrorist organization targets the territorial integrity of Syria, Erdoğan said and added: "Terrorism of PKK, PYD, and YPG is a common issue for all of us. We should not forget that the terrorist organization targets the territorial integrity of Syria.”
"As Turkey, we do not see any difference between terrorist organizations. Our fight against terrorist organizations will always continue regardless of where and by whom they are supported," Erdoğan vowed.
He reiterated that Turkey is determined to root out terror organizations in Syria that threaten its security.
"We are determined to eradicate the evil groups that target our national security from Syria.”
The president said Turkey, Russia, and Iran discussed joint steps to end the conflict in Syria, adding that there is only a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
He also said: "We should not forget that people in Syria are in tents in an inhumane environment. Our goal is to ensure our Syrian brothers and sisters return their home voluntarily, safely and with dignity."
The gathering comes after Erdoğan recently warned that Turkey plans to launch a new operation in northern Syria against the PKK terror group's Syrian branch, the YPG, which threatens Turkey's national security and border security.
Erdoğan has said that since the United States and Russia have failed to live up to their commitments to provide a safe zone along the border region, Turkey is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the PKK/YPG.
In October 2019, Russia committed to removing the terrorist group from Tal Rifaat and Manbij after reaching an agreement with Turkey during Operation Peace Spring. Moscow also promised that the terrorists would be pulled back 30 kilometers from the border on the M4 highway and in the area outside the Operation Peace Spring zone.
The operation is part of Turkey's plans to create a safe zone along its border with Syria that would encourage the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.
The YPG controls large parts of northern Syria and is regarded by Washington as an important ally against Daesh despite its NATO ally Turkey's major security concerns and warnings.
Turkish-backed operations in previous years have ousted the YPG and Daesh terrorists from the northwestern enclave of Afrin and a series of border towns further east. Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019).
It has also supported the Syrian opposition against Bashar Assad’s regime. Iran and Russia are also heavily involved in Syria's conflict, but support, rather than oppose, Assad.
"It should be understood clearly that there is no room in our region's future for separatist terror organizations," Erdoğan said at the summit.
"We will continue our fight against terrorist organizations in the time to come," he added.
The Russian leader said it was a "constructive and useful" summit on Syria, and the three countries agreed that the Syrian crisis could only be resolved through diplomacy.
Putin also said Russia, Turkey and Iran are ready to continue helping the uninterrupted work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.
Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran reject all unilateral sanctions against Syria, Putin said, adding that they remain committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria.
He further said Russia, Turkey and Iran condemn the increased presence and activities of terrorist organizations in Syria, as well as "illegal self-government initiatives" in the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
Putin also emphasized that the cooperation with Turkey is developing "dynamically" in all fields.
For his part, Iran's Raisi said the U.S. presence in east of the Euphrates River, northeastern Syria, is "unacceptable" and they should leave the region.
The issue of Syrian refugees and domestically displaced people is an "important issue," he said, urging the regional countries and the international community to "help the refugees return their homes."
The guarantor states of the Astana process, Raisi said, have always backed the "political solution" to the crisis within the framework of the agreements reached, including holding the Syrian constitutional negotiations, while reaffirming their commitment to fight terrorism in the entire region, including Syria.
He called for "ending the presence of terrorist groups" in Syria, while condemning Israeli attacks in the war-ravaged country, especially on civilian infrastructures like airports and ports.
The Iranian president reaffirmed Tehran's support to the "people and the government of Syria with full force."
Raisi hailed the Astana process as a "successful framework for the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis," which he affirmed has had "good achievements."
Notably, it was Erdoğan's first visit to Tehran since the formation of the new government in Tehran last year. Putin was also on his first international trip beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union since the start of the Ukraine war.
The summit also enabled Erdoğan to hold his first meeting with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Erdoğan became the first NATO leader to meet face-to-face with Putin since the bloc last month declared Russia the "most significant" threat as NATO leaders endorsed a new Strategic Concept for the military alliance.
Putin, who turns 70 this year, has made few foreign trips in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then the Ukraine crisis. His last trip beyond the former Soviet Union was to China in February.
The summit came days after U.S. President Joe Biden visited the Middle East for the first time since taking office, with stops in Iran's regional foes Israel and Saudi Arabia.