EghtesadOnline: Turkey said it will facilitate contacts between Syria’s government and opposition groups in preparation for peace talks organized together with Russia and Iran that aim to reach a nationwide cease-fire as the first step to ending an almost six-year civil war.
“We must find a way to stop this bloodiest war of the modern era,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said at a news conference in Ankara on Monday. “It’s of the utmost importance to be constructive and focus on solving the problem, and that is our approach.”
According to Bloomberg, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in Moscow last week to follow a joint approach to Syria that includes seeking a cease-fire and holding peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, sidelining the U.S. They offered to act as guarantors of any peace deal to end the conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people and sent millions fleeing to neighboring countries and to Europe.
The date of the talks in Astana and the list of participants haven’t been set yet, Kalin said. The first meeting is due to be held in mid-January, Russia said on Friday. The Syrian government, the “moderate” opposition, the Kurds and forces “on the ground” including armed opposition that aren’t part of terrorist groups will be invited, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.
Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran this month took the city of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest, defeating mostly Islamist rebels. It marked one of Russia’s biggest victories since it joined the Syrian war last year in support of President Bashar al-Assad and against rebels backed by the U.S., Turkey, Gulf and European states.
Putin thanked Turkey as well as Iran for their role in the capture of Aleppo. Turkish authorities, who had been supporting opponents of Assad, restricted the flow of rebel weapons across the border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group. Turkey also helped to broker and guarantee a deal for the evacuation of 100,000 rebels and civilians from the opposition-held east of the city.
The United Nations, whose efforts to stage Syria peace talks collapsed earlier this year because of continued fighting, has announced a new round will be held in February. The talks in Kazakhstan wouldn’t replace the UN-led efforts in Geneva, according to Russia and Turkey.
Diplomatic efforts to expand the ceasefire in East Aleppo to all of Syria are continuing intensely with talks between Turkey’s and Russia’s presidents, prime ministers and foreign minister, Kalin said. “Our aim here is to make sure the cease-fire is reached and systematically enforced in all of Syria. Our ultimate aim is to reach a political transition process.”
Russia has opposed efforts by U.S. allies, including Turkey, to force Assad from power. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Turkey and Iran had agreed that “the number one priority shouldn’t be regime change but the task of suppressing the terrorist threat” in Syria.