Turkey, Russia, Iran urge Idlib sides to lay down arms
The presidents of Turkey, Iran, and Russia on Sept. 7 invited all groups involved in the conflict in Syria’s Idlib province to lay down their arms in a move aimed to ease reconciliation, urging a “negotiated political process.”
A joint statement, released at the end of a three-way summit in Tehran, said “there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict.”
The statement signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said they “took up the situation in [the] Idlib de-escalation area and decided to address it in line with the spirit of cooperation that characterized the Astana format.”
The three countries are guarantors of the Astana process, a track of talks on Syria’s civil war launched after Russia’s 2015 military intervention, which led to the creation of de-escalation zones.
The next round of Syria talks between the three countries’ leaders will be held in Russia, the statement said.
The joint statement on Sept. 7 said the leaders highlighted the “need to create conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons [IDPs] to their original places of residence in Syria.”
The statement came after Erdoğan, Putin, and Rouhani spoke at the summit meeting in Tehran to discuss the future of Syria as a bloody military operation looms in the last rebel-held area of the war-ravaged nation.
Erdoğan appealed for a cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib, saying a government offensive in the northwestern province would be a national security threat to Turkey and unleash a humanitarian catastrophe.
“Turkey is already sheltering three million refugees [from Syria]. The population of Idlib is three million. Turkey doesn’t have the strength or capability to host three million more,” Erdoğan said.
“Idlib isn’t just important for Syria’s future, it is of importance for our national security and for the future of the region,” the Turkish president said.
“Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe. Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience,” he added, saying “we don’t want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath.
“We must find a reasonable way out for Idlib,” he said.
Erdoğan calls on Putin, Rouhani to a cease-fire
Erdoğan also called on Putin and Rouhani to agree to a cease-fire in Idlib, saying such an accord would be a “victory” of their summit.
However, Putin responded that “a cease-fire would be good” but indicated that Moscow does not think it will hold. He said al-Nusra Front and ISIL militants located there were not part of peace talks. Syria should regain control of all its territory, he said.
“The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table. And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS [another acronym for ISIL] or the Syrian army,” Putin said.
“I think in general the Turkish president is right. It would be good. But I can’t speak for them, and even more so can’t talk for terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS that they will stop shooting or stop using drones with bombs.”
Putin said Russia hopes that its “call for peace in Idlib zone as well will be heard... we will strive for peace among all warring sides, and we have never factored in terrorist organizations.”
“We hope that representatives of terrorist organizations will have enough common sense to stop resistance and lay down [their] weapons,” Putin said.
For his part, Rouhani demanded an immediate withdrawal by American forces in the country. The U.S. has some 2,000 troops in Syria. He added that “we have to force the United States to leave,” without elaborating.
“The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are reaching their end,” Rouhani said, while adding that terrorism must “be uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib.”