Istanbul to host Turkey-Russia-Iran summit on Syria
Turkey, Russia and Iran are expected to hold a presidential summit in Istanbul to discuss efforts to find a political settlement to the Syrian civil war, amid rising tension in Idlib province and Turkey’s ongoing military operation in the Afrin district.
The three-way summit was discussed during a phone conversation between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin early on Feb. 8, during which they also discussed Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin.
Turkish sources said the two leaders agreed to hold a top-level meeting with the inclusion of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in Istanbul, following their summit in Sochi in late November 2017. The date of the upcoming Istanbul summit has not been decided.
Erdoğan told Putin about the ongoing Turkish incursion into Afrin, while the two leaders “agreed on the need for the intensification of efforts for the establishment of monitoring spots in Idlib” as part of joint works to create de-escalation zones in Syria in line with the Astana agreement, sources said. They added that the two leaders “agreed to continue their military and political coordination” in the Syrian theater, while Erdoğan raised the issue of the “worrying situation” in Eastern Ghouta, where Syrian government and Russian forces have staged harsh raids on rebel-held areas.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also spoke with Iranian counterpart Hasan Rouhani on the phone that same day. The two leaders discussed the latest developments in Syria and hailed increased cooperation on security issues and the fight against terrorism.
Erdoğan expresses condolences over deceased Russian pilot
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Kremlin after the phone conversation said Erdoğan expressed his condolences to Putin on the death of Russian military pilot Roman Filipov, who was piloting a Sukhoi Su-25 on Feb. 3 and was attacked by militants in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
“It was agreed to improve coordination of the Russian and Turkish troops and special services against terrorist groups that are violating the ceasefire,” the Kremlin stated.
“Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdoğan stressed the importance of strict and unfailing adherence to the Astana agreements on de-escalation zones in Syria. They reaffirmed mutual commitment to the political and diplomatic resolution of the crisis based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, in line with the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which took place on Jan. 30, 2018 in Sochi,” it added.
“In this context, the two leaders noted the importance of continuing cooperation between Russia, Turkey and Iran regarding Syria. They discussed future contacts in this format at various levels,” the Kremlin stated.
Turkey, Iran and Russia had taken part in a three-way process at a summit in Sochi to gear up efforts for a political solution to the Syrian turmoil, leading to the formation of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. A meeting of the congress in late January stipulated the establishment of a committee tasked to write the new Syrian constitution under U.N. supervision.
Iran unhappy with Turkish operation
However, Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has drawn criticism from Iran.
At a press conference on Feb 6, Iranian President Rouhani called on Turkey to halt its Afrin operation, saying it will “only result in more deaths on both sides.”
Iran believes “a military foreign intervention should be based on the authorization of the host country and its people,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran.
“We wish for Turkey’s operation in Syria to end at the earliest time,” he added.
Immediately after Rouhani’s statement, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a surprise visit to Tehran on Feb. 7 to hold talks with the Iranian president and Foreign Minister Javed Zarif.