Turkey, Russia and Iran urge ‘lasting ceasefire’ in Syria

The United States says it had reached a decision on a possible withdrawal of troops from Syria

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, left, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan join hands after a joint press conference in Ankara, Turkey.

Ankara: Turkey, Russia and Iran on Wednesday said they were committed to achieving a “lasting ceasefire” in Syria, in a joint statement issued following a summit in Ankara hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russia’s Vladimir Putin reaffirmed their commitment to cooperating for “the achievement of a lasting ceasefire between the conflicting parties”, a joint communique said.

The three powers have been working together to speed up the process of finding a political solution in Syria as part of the Astana peace process which began last year.

The Ankara summit at Erdogan’s presidential palace was the second such tripartite summit following one in November 2017 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi hosted by Putin.

Erdogan insisted their meetings and the Astana talks were not an “alternative” to the UN-backed Geneva process to find peace in Syria.

But the three leaders said “the Astana format had been the only effective international initiative that had helped reduce violence across Syria and had contributed to peace and stability in” the country.

They added that it had given “impetus to the Geneva process in order to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict” in the statement.

“What is foremost for us is getting results. We must get results. We have no tolerance for delays. People are dying here,” Erdogan told reporters after the summit.

The three countries have been working together despite being on opposing sides of the civil war.

Russia and Iran have provided military and political support to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad while Turkey has repeatedly called for his removal and helped Syrian opposition fighters.

Turkey last month drove out Kurdish militia from Afrin city after launching a cross-border offensive in the Syrian region in January, thanks to a reported green light from Moscow which controls airspace in northern Syria.

On his part, Rouhani said that the Syrian region of Afrin, captured by Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, should be handed over to Syria’s army.

“The developments in Afrin can only be useful if they do not violate Syria’s territorial integrity, and control of these areas should be handed over to the Syrian army,” Rouhani said at a summit meeting in Ankara.

Meanwhile the three leaders called for bigger humanitarian aid supplies, as well as assistance in clearing land mines and aid to help restore the destroyed infrastructure.

Speaking after Wednesday’s summit in Ankara, Erdogan pointed at the EU’s failure to deliver 3 billion euros in assistance he said it promised for helping restore Syria’s north. He added that Turkey will continue to invest its own funds in rebuilding Syria.

They also said they stood against “separatist” agendas that would undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a joint statement released at the end of their summit meeting in Ankara, they “rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism.”

They reaffirmed their commitment to working toward achieving cease-fires between conflicting parties in Syria and emphasised commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

The statement said the countries reaffirmed determination to continue cooperation “ in order to ultimately eliminate” Daesh and other entities associated with Al Qaida.

The next three way summit will take place in Tehran, Erdogan said, but he did not indicate when that would be.

More than a half a million people have been killed since the start of the conflict following anti-government protests in March 2011.

Millions more have been forced to flee their homes.

Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, most of whom live in Turkish cities.

Meanwhile, the United States said Wednesday it had reached a decision on a possible withdrawal of troops from Syria, the top US intelligence official said Wednesday, adding an announcement was imminent.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said President Donald Trump took part in “a significant discussion” with his national security team on the US commitment in Syria at the White House on Tuesday.

“There will be a statement shortly relative to the decision that was made,” Coats said at a breakfast with defense reporters.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants American troops to “get out” of Syria, even as top US officials stressed the need to stay for the long term.

“Our primary mission in terms of Syria was getting rid of Daesh,” Trump said.

“We’ve almost completed that task. And we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do.”

Iran said the US threat to pull out is an excuse for soliciting money from countries that want them to remain there.

Rouhani said: “One day they say they want to pull out of Syria …, then it turns out that they are craving money. They have told Arab countries to give them money to remain in Syria.”


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