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More cooperation steps designed in Syria summit: Putin

Russia, Turkey, Iran have 'significant efforts' over restoration of peace in civil war-torn country, says Vladimir Putin

Elena Teslova   | 14.02.2019
More cooperation steps designed in Syria summit: Putin Russia's President Vladimir Putin

By Elena Teslova, Enes Canli and Ahmet Dursun


Russia, Turkey and Iran designed further steps on cooperation in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, following the trilateral summit in Sochi.

Addressing the joint news conference alongside his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, Putin said the agreements achieved in the summit were fixed in the final communique under the signature of three leaders.

Detailing the points agreed, Putin said three countries were willing to strengthen their cooperation in the framework of the Astana process, increase the efforts in the fight against terrorism, promote inter-Syrian dialogue and improve the humanitarian situation.

On the Astana peace talks, Putin said the next consultations on the level of experts will take place in Astana in late March or early April.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are guarantor countries which brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva talks.

"The Astana Troika maintains contacts with interested regional countries and international structures, some states requested to join the Astana format as observers. In this regard, [we] instructed the foreign ministers to work out the issue," he added.

On the restoration of peace in Syria, Putin described the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian efforts as “significant”.

The next is to form a committee on the Syrian constitution in order to define the future organization of the political system in Syria, he added.

“The success of the political process in Syria will help further normalize Damascus' relations with the Arab countries, restore its membership in the Arab League, and serve the interests of strengthening security and stability in the Middle East.”

- Idlib memorandum

Following a meeting last September between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib are to remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct patrols to prevent renewed fighting.

On the deal, Putin said: "Iranian and Turkish colleagues are ready to work together for the final removal of tension in Idlib".

Also addressing the U.S. Syria pullout, he said it would be a “positive step”, contributing to the settlement in Syria.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump made the unexpected decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, drawing criticism from many allies and security aides, including his own Cabinet.

- ‘We stand for dialogue within Syria’

Russia understands Turkey’s security concerns over the situation around the Euphrates River, Putin said, adding the Adana Agreement should be guided to prevent any conflict over the issue.

"We do not support anything related to separatism. We stand for dialogue within Syria, which will lead to the restoration of society and the state.

“Our special services and military agencies are in close contact in this area [the Euphrates]. If we act as smoothly as we have done so far, success will be assured. But ultimately, Syria's territorial integrity will be ensured as the terrorist threat disappears," Putin said.

Russia, Iran and Turkey made considerable efforts in the humanitarian domain in Syria, Putin said, calling for global assistance.

"Russia, Iran and Turkey created conditions for the return of one and a half million refugees, the government has given firm security guarantees to all who want to return home. We call all the states and international organizations, in first turn the UN, to intensify efforts to rebuild Syria," he said.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

- Rouhani: US presence in Syria against int'l law

For his part, Rouhani underscored that Turkey’s concerns regarding Syria should be taken into account when discussing a resolution to the conflict running in the country for eight years.

He also said that all terror groups in the country must be dealt with until they were utterly destroyed.

"While we understand these concerns, the most sustainable way to their elimination is [to enter into] cooperation with the Syrian government," he said, offering Iranian mediation in such an endeavor.

Criticizing Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s actions in the region, Rouhani accused the U.S. of "transferring" Daesh terrorists to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

He asserted that Washington’s presence in Syria was against international law, underlining that U.S. forces should evacuate the country "as soon as possible".

Rouhani underlined that the Idlib agreement signed under the Astana peace process between the three countries should be implemented "in line with the latest developments".

Claiming that al Qaeda-linked terror groups remain in civilian-populated areas in the northwestern Syrian town, he stressed that this would not deter the Syrian regime from targeting them.

He further added that aiding in the reconstruction of the country was crucial for the resolution of the conflict.

Putin, Rouhani and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gathered in Sochi to discuss a lasting solution to the crisis in Syria.

The leaders first met in Sochi in 2017.

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