EghtesadOnline: The leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia met on Monday to secure lasting peace in Syria, particularly in Idlib, the last remaining territory held by rebels seeking to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The summit in Ankara brought together Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Russia's President Vladimir Putin, ISNA reported.
Tehran and Moscow have backed Assad against the rebels. Ankara, along with the United States, European and Arab allies, has supported different rebel factions in the conflict.
Assad's forces, aided by Russian air power and Iran’s advisory assistance, regained control of most lands lost in the war. In recent months, the Syrian Army has attacked Idlib in northwest Syria, where Syrian and foreign radical fighters held sway alongside other factions, Financial Tribune reported.
Under a deal with Moscow and Tehran two years ago, Turkey set up 12 military observation posts around the Idlib region aimed at reducing fighting between Assad's forces and rebels, according to Reuters.
The Turkish military posts have recently been caught in the crossfire due to the Syrian offensive in the region.
A statement issued by the Turkish presidency on Sunday said the summit is aimed at "assessing the developments in Syria, Idlib in particular, as well as ending the climate of conflict, ensuring the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and discussing the joint step to be taken in the period ahead with the aim of achieving a lasting political solution," Hurriyet reported.
The Kremlin had earlier said the summit will discuss "further joint efforts on reaching a long-term settlement in the Syrian Arab Republic".
"The participants plan to discuss, in part, measures on finally eliminating the terrorist threat in Idlib and northwest Syria, promoting the political process, primarily in the context of forming and launching the constitutional committee and resolving humanitarian issues, including steps to facilitate the return of refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons]," it added.
'Illegal' Foreign Intervention
Speaking to reporters before departing for Ankara late Sunday, Rouhani said regional security is of high importance to Iran, Turkey and Russia.
He criticized the "illegal" and "interventionist" meddling of the United States and Israel in Syrian affairs and expressed hope that "effective" steps would be taken in the coming days to improve the situation in the war-torn country, his website reported.
"We have always emphasized that the future of Syria belongs to its own people, and they are the ones to make decisions. Other countries only have a responsibility to support the legitimate government in Damascus and the Syrian people," he said.
Rouhani said the summit would focus on combating terrorism and countering foreign interference in Syria, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees, promoting reconstruction and constitutional reform, as well as elections in 2021.
"Terrorists are still operating in Idlib and it is necessary to continue the fight against them in this region," he said.
Rouhani also hailed Tehran's "very friendly" ties with Ankara and Moscow, adding that Iran is always prepared to forge closer ties with neighbors.
Wave of Migrants
The fighting in northwestern Syria has raised the risk of a new wave of migrants going toward Turkey, which currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
The United Nations has said more than 500,000 people have been uprooted since late April, most of them escaping deeper into the rebel bastion and toward the border.
Erdogan has said Turkey cannot handle such an influx of refugees and has threatened to "open the gates" for migrants to march on Europe unless Ankara receives more international support.
Rouhani also held bilateral talks with Erdogan ahead of the summit and was scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart as well, ISNA reported.