The Foreign Ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran will hold a meeting on war-torn Syria in the Kazakh capital Astana on March 16. The three countries will be discussing and finding a common ground to try to push the troubled Syrian peace process forward.
Turkish President Erdogan has outrightly rejected the idea of dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad during his talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.Turkey said it had captured a Kurdish town in the northwestern Afrin region where it has been fighting the Kurdish YPG militia since January, while Turkey’s military operation victory relies on Moscow including Syrian airspace for airstrikes.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s called on Ankara and Damascus to sort out their differences over Afrin through dialogue.Meanwhile, the Syrian government forces is advancing in eastern Ghouta to launch an offensive to crush the last rebel area near the capital Damascus.
A UN humanitarian official said 400,000 people in eastern Ghouta were being subjected to unacceptable “collective punishment”, and called for the implementation of a 30-day ceasefire demanded by the UN Security Council.
For Assad capturing the eastern Ghouta area would be a major victory as the war in Syria is entering its eighth year.Russia has called for five-hour“humanitarian” ceasefire daily in eastern Ghouta to allow for aid deliveries and evacuations of civilians and wounded. No aid has been delivered, however, and the US State Department has called the Russian plan a “joke”.
The relationship between Russia and Turkey has witnessed many ups and downs over Syria and their respective regional postures.In 2015, Russian plane Su-24 was hit by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s while it was flying over Syrian territory.Russian retaliated by a full embargo on Turkish exports to Russia, delays on the Turk Stream Pipeline, cessation of Russian tourism to Turkey, and work stoppage on the Akkuyu plant.
But after August 2016 trade rebounded and all projects that were stopped were started and in December 2017 both Putin and Erdogan announced the improvement in their bilateral relationship. Turkey finalized a deal to purchase Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
Tehran is worried over the United States’ illegitimate presence in Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
“Developments in Syria, including the United States’ illegitimate presence, are causing serious concerns,” Zarif said.”We hope to continue dialogue with you about that to strengthen the major agreements we (Russia, Iran and Turkey) reached on ways towards the political settlement.”
Russia is trying to confirm its role as a major player in resolving the political crisis in Syria following the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2401 calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria.
By Arti Bali