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EghtesadOnline: Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif held a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis as well as other regional issues and bilateral ties.

He presented a report of his latest talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Turkish top official. 

Zarif set off on a two-day regional tour on Tuesday, heading first to Damascus at the head of a political delegation where he held talks with the Syrian president. 

"I had lengthy talks with Assad. I will submit a report of it to Mr. Erdogan," Zarif had earlier said in a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to Financial Tribune. 

The talks came ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Astana Peace Process, an initiative launched in 2017 by Iran, Russia and Turkey to end the Syrian conflict. The event is scheduled for 25-6 April in the Kazakh capital.  

The Astana meeting will be attended by delegations from the Syrian government and opposition groups and representatives of the three guarantor states (Iran, Russia and Turkey). The United Nations and Jordan are also expected to attend. 

Staffan de Mistura, the former UN envoy, seemed frustrated in November talks, regretting "a missed opportunity" to end the Syrian conflict. The newly appointed envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, will represent the UN in this round of the meeting.

Zarif hoped that the upcoming talks will help finalize the composition of Syria's Constitutional Committee and the general principles governing its operations. 

"Of course, its details need to be determined by the Syrian people," he stressed. 

The constitutional committee is a central component of the broader Syrian peace process aiming to bring representatives from the government and the opposition groups together. 

"We hope to progress a step further in the [peace] process in cooperation with Turkish, Russian and UN partners and the collaboration of the Syrian side," Zarif said. 



Sanction Opposition 

In his meeting with Zarif, Cavusoglu reiterated Ankara's opposition to the United States' harsh economic policies against Iran that have affected the lives of its people. 

"We cannot accept [a policy of] punishing the people of Iran through sanctions," he said. 

Washington imposed harsh sanctions on Iran last year after unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal. It is also threatening other countries to restrict their trade with Iran. 

Cavusoglu added that Turkish ministers had clearly conveyed their concerns to the US about embargoes on Iran during a recent visit.

"We will continue telling the US that the embargoes [on Iran] are wrong," he was quoted as saying by Anadolu News Agency. 

He stressed that absolute friendship and hostility have no place in international relations. 

"If, at the time of deterioration of relations, you place the armed forces of another country on the list of terrorists, you would cause chaos," he was quoted as saying by ISNA. 

He was referring to the recent US move to designate Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization, in response to which Iran blacklisted the American Central Command, forces responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, as a terrorist group.



Seeking Waiver Extension

Turkey is among the main buyers of Iranian oil and has been granted a temporary waiver by the US, along with seven other states, to continue its purchases. 

Ankara is seeking an extension of waivers that are due to expire early May. 

"We have made it clear we would like to continue to buy Iranian oil. People should not expect Turkey to turn its back on Iran just like that," presidential spokesman and senior adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told a news conference on Tuesday, Aljazeera reported.  

He added, however, that Turkey would not want to violate sanctions if a waiver was not extended.

"We will look for alternatives in terms of transactions and other things. We don't want to break or violate the sanctions but at the same time, we don't want to be deprived of our right to buy oil and gas from Iran," he said.


Turkey Iran Zarif Syria Erdogan Recep Tayyip Erdogan Syrian crisis Astana talks regional issues Mohammed Javad Zarif solutions