Russia, Turkey, Iran to meet in Moscow on Syria
ANKARAForeign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov and Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif are due to hold tripartite talks on the Syria conflict in Moscow on Dec. 20 to discuss Aleppo and the wider Syrian crisis, an official from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.
The Kremlin suggested Turkey, Russia and Iran should come together for a solution, initially over Aleppo, but which could also be enlarged to include other parts of Syria, Reuters quoted a Turkish official as saying.
The official expressed hope that talks would provide an “impetus.”
“[The meeting] will be to understand the views of all three sides, laying out where we all stand and discuss where we go from here,” the official said, adding that it was not a “miracle” meeting but would give all sides a chance to listen to each other.
The official insisted that Ankara was sticking to its position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go for there to be a solution in Syria.
“There’s no way we can have any contact with the Syrian regime,” said the official, denying there had been any secret talks with representatives for al-Assad. “Someone who is the culprit in the death of 600,000 people cannot be a partner for a solution. With the Russians, we agree to disagree on this matter.”
Turkey continued diplomatic efforts to secure the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo late on Dec. 18, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Çavuşoğlu speaking to Zarif.
Erdoğan and Putin reportedly discussed the implementation of the stalled agreement on the evacuation of civilians and fighters from Aleppo, as Shiite militias insist on the evacuation of around 1,200 armed militias from two Shiite villages near Idlib.
The two presidents also reviewed Putin’s proposal to convene a meeting between the Syrian regime and opposition groups in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık will also hold talks with his Russian counterpart on Dec. 20 in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu spoke to Zarif late on Dec. 18 on the Aleppo evacuation deal, their 17th phone conversation in the past four days.
Iranian First Deputy President Eshaq Jahangiri was to visit Turkey on Dec. 19, but the visit was postponed to an uncertain date, Prime Ministry sources said without elaborating on the reason.
On Dec. 18, some of the buses sent to al-Foua and Kefraya, two Shiite-majority villages besieged by rebels near Idlib, to carry evacuees out were attacked and torched by armed men, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” and brandished their weapons in front of the burning vehicles, according to a video posted online.
That incident threatened to derail the evacuations, the result of intense negotiations between Russia – al-Assad’s main supporter – and Turkey, which backs some large rebel groups.