Iran, Russia and Turkey Presidents End Syria Talks

President Hassan Rouhani (C) stands next to Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a trilateral summit in Tehran on Friday.President Hassan Rouhani (C) stands next to Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a trilateral summit in Tehran on Friday.

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in a high stakes summit in Tehran on Friday to discuss the future of Syria as a military operation looms in the last rebel-held area of the war-ravaged nation. President Hassan Rouhani deplored the Washington government’s negative role in the ongoing crisis in Syria and said the “illegal” military presence of the US will only increase problems of the Arab country in resolving the crisis.

“Obviously, we should not expect the US government to play a positive and constructive role in this regard with its illegal presence in Syria and its acts of aggression and occupation,” Rouhani said during a trilateral summit with his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tasnim News Agency reported. “The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are reaching their end,” Rouhani said, while adding that terrorism must “be uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib.”

  Turkey Wants Ceasefire

Turkey’s president appealed for a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib, saying a government offensive in the northwestern province would be a national security threat to his country and unleash a humanitarian catastrophe.

His call appeared to be at odds with statements by Putin who said the Syrian government “has the right” to regain control over all Syrian territory, including Idlib.

“Idlib isn’t just important for Syria’s future, it is of importance for our national security and for the future of the region,” Erdogan said, AP reported.                                                            

“Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe. Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience,” he added, saying “we don’t want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath. “We must find a reasonable way out for Idlib,” he said. Putin reiterated Russia’s stance that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government should be able to regain control of all of Syria.

“We should think together over all aspects of this complicated issue,” Putin said, speaking of Idlib. “We should solve this issue together and (we should) all realize that the legitimate Syrian government has the right and eventually should be able to regain control of all of its territory.” Reacting to Erdogan’s proposal for the joint communiqué to call for a ceasefire in Idlib, Putin said “a ceasefire would be good” but indicated that Moscow does not think it will hold.

  Chemical Provocations

He warned militants in Idlib planned “provocations,” possibly including chemical weapons. Iranian and Russian support for Assad has shored up the Damascus regime, allowing it to regain the upper hand in a foreign-baked militancy which has claimed some 350,000 lives since 2011.

Northwestern Idlib Province and surrounding areas are home to about 3 million people - nearly half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria. That also includes an estimated 10,000 hard-core fighters, including al-Qaida-linked militants. For Russia and Iran, both allies of the Syrian government, retaking Idlib is crucial to complete what they see as a military victory in Syria’s civil war after Syrian troops recaptured nearly all other major towns and cities, largely defeating the rebellion against Assad.

For Turkey, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to newcomers. It has also created zones of control in northern Syria and has several hundred troops deployed at 12 observation posts in Idlib.  A government assault creates a nightmare scenario of potentially hundreds of thousands of people, including militants, fleeing toward its border and destabilizing towns and cities in northern Syria under its control.


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