Leaders meet over Syria conflict in Turkey - GulfToday

Leaders meet over Syria conflict in Turkey


Hassan Rouhani, Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin pose before their meeting in Ankara on Monday. Reuters

The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Ankara, on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, with the aim of halting fighting in the northwestern Idlib province and finding a lasting political solution to the country’s civil war, now in its ninth year.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani met Erdogan in Ankara for their fifth summit on the conflict since 2017. “We will address first and foremost the situation on the field in Idlib, the developments east of the Euphrates, the stage reached in the political process and the issue of Syrian refugees,” Erdogan said during his opening remarks.

Erdogan hailed the three countries’ cooperation on finding a “lasting political solution” and Russian President Vladimir Putin said their joint efforts had helped decrease violence in Syria. But both Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani expressed concern over Idlib, warning that it should not be a haven for “terrorists.”

Iran and Russia have been staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, while Turkey has called for his ouster and backed opposition fighters. But with Assad’s position looking increasingly secure, Turkey’s priority has shifted to preventing a mass influx of refugees from Idlib in Syria’s northwest.

Turkey is concerned over the steady advance of Syrian forces into the region, backed by Russian air power, despite a series of ceasefires.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib to enforce a buffer zone agreement struck a year ago with Russia to prevent a full-scale Syrian offensive.

But the posts look increasingly threatened, with one of them cut off from the rest of Idlib when Syrian forces advanced last month. Russian air strikes have continued in the region despite the latest ceasefire between Ankara and Moscow on Aug.31.

“A large number of terrorists are still present in this zone... and fighters continue to fire on the positions of government forces,” Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.

The Turkish presidency said the leaders would discuss the latest developments in Syria as well as “ensuring the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and discussing the joint step to be taken in the period ahead with the aim of achieving a lasting political solution.” Moscow is keen to see progress on establishing a constitutional committee to oversee the next stage of the political settlement in Syria.

That would give Putin a political win to add to the military victories, said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst at International Crisis Group. But she said expectations should remain low.


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