Iran Optimistic About Trilateral Syria Initiative

Iran, Russia and Turkey held an expert-level meeting in Astana on Monday to follow up on previous agreements on Syria
Bahram QasemiBahram Qasemi

The Foreign Ministry spokesman is optimistic that Iran, Russia and Turkey can consolidate the current ceasefire in Syria and take steps to restore peace and security to the war-ravaged Arab country. 

Bahram Qasemi made the statement in a regular press briefing on Monday, IRIB News reported.

Qasemi said Tehran's stance on the nearly six-year-old conflict has not changed and it still believes that only the Syrian people should decide about the future of the Syrian government and the destiny of their country.

"We will continue to defend Syria's territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The return of peace, stability and security to Syria is good for the whole region," he said.

Asked about a Sunday meeting in Tehran between Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy on Syrian affairs, Qasemi said Iran and Russia have come to new understandings on how to settle the crisis, which he hopes will help move forward the trilateral talks on settling the Syria crisis. 

Tehran and Moscow are major backers of the Syrian government in its anti-terror drive, with Tehran providing advisory services to Syrian troops and Russia lending airpower.

Their partner, Turkey, supplies arms to the opponents of the Syrian government, but is no longer insisting that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down. Its eager to prevent any formation of a Kurdish enclave in Syria along its border. 

The history of trilateral cooperation on Syria goes back to a deal on evacuation of militants from Aleppo in mid-December, following which Syrian troops gained a major victory by retaking the second biggest Syrian city.

On December 20, the three sides' foreign ministers sat down for Syria talks in Moscow, where they agreed on principles of reaching a Syrian settlement.

Then they agreed to a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which excluded the self-styled Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra (recently rebranded to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) terrorist groups.

The Syrian truce went into effect on December 30 and has been largely holding since then. It prepared the ground for the Astana talks on January 23-24 between the Syrian government and a delegation of armed opposition groups.

The trio announced at the end of the Astana talks that they have agreed on the establishment of a trilateral mechanism to monitor any violations of the current ceasefire in Syria and ensure its survival.

  Experts Convene 

Iran, Russia and Turkey held an expert-level meeting in Astana on Monday to follow up on previous agreements.

TASS reported the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss compliance with the ceasefire in Syria, drafting steps to monitor and prevent truce violations, enhancing mutual trust between the Syrian government and the opposition, and making efforts to tackle humanitarian issues. 

Efforts to separate the opposition groups from Jabhat al-Nusra feature on the agenda.

Representatives of the United Nations and Jordan, a neighbor of Syria, also participated in the meeting.

The next round of separate UN-brokered peace talks on Syria in Geneva—first scheduled for Feb. 8—has been postponed to Feb. 20.

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