EghtesadOnline: The presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran meeting in Ankara on Monday agreed to help ease tensions in northwest Syria’s Idlib region.
The summit of the three countries—all of whom have allies fighting in Syria’s ruinous eight-year-old war—was geared toward finding a lasting truce in Syria.
The recent escalation of military conflict in Idlib risks deepening regional turmoil and pushing a new wave of migrants toward Turkey, according to Financial Tribune.
“We are in a period when we need to take more responsibility for peace in Syria, when we [three countries] need to carry more weight,” Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that all three leaders were in agreement that a political solution was necessary to end the crisis in Syria, Reuters reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the rebels. Erdogan, along with the United States, and European and Arab allies, has supported different rebel factions.
On Monday, the three leaders said in a joint statement that they were alarmed about the risk of further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in and around Idlib and had agreed to take “concrete steps” to stop violations of previously negotiated agreements between the three countries.
Disagreements appeared to persist, however, in particular over the threat in Syria from the self-styled Islamic State terror group, which Erdogan dismissed completely while Putin expressed concern.
“Of course, we are worried by the situation in northeast Syria, where sleeping cells of IS are emerging,” Putin told a joint news conference, minutes after Erdogan said the only threat in northern Syria was from Kurdish militant groups.
The joint statement did not mention Saturday’s attacks on two of Saudi Arabia’s Aramco facilities by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, which a Saudi-led coalition claimed were carried out with Iranian weapons.
However, at the joint news conference after the summit, Iran’s Rouhani called the attacks a reciprocal measure by “Yemeni people” to assaults on their country.
Erdogan focused on a planned “safe zone” with Russia and Iran in northern Syria, which he said could host up to three million refugees currently living in Turkey if it was extended from Turkey’s border to Deir al-Zor and Raqqa.
Neither Putin nor Rouhani commented on the Turkish plans and the joint statement did not refer to them, however.
Rouhani said before the talks that diplomacy was the only solution to the crisis and called on the United States to withdraw its troops from northeastern Syria immediately.
Against the advice of his top aides and commanders, US President Donald Trump said last year he would withdraw US troops from Syria. The move was welcomed by Turkey and Iran, but has yet to be fully implemented.
Turkish and US forces launched joint land patrols in northern Syria as part of a safe zone at the east of Euphrates River more than a week ago.
“Diplomacy and not [military] confrontation can secure peace in Syria,” Rouhani said.
According to the joint statement, talks focused on Idlib, the last remaining territory held by rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.
Turkey, which has a 911-km border with Syria along its southern frontier, has 12 military observation posts in the region, under a deal with Moscow and Tehran in 2017.
Erdogan and Putin, who agreed last month to take steps to “normalize” the situation in Idlib after Syrian troops encircled rebels and a Turkish post in the region, reiterated the need to root out militant groups from the region.
“Russia, on its part, plans to support Syrian Army while it carries local operations aimed at removing terrorist threat where it emerges,” Putin said.