Middle East

Turkish, Iranian, Russian FMs discuss Syria in Astana

Turkish foreign minister slams journalist for using FETO rhetoric, after the journalist asks a provocative question

Turkish, Iranian, Russian FMs discuss Syria in Astana Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) hold joint press conference after the ninth round of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on March 16, 2018. (Cem Özdel - Anadolu Agency)

By Selen Temizer


The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran met in the Kazakh capital Astana to discuss Syria on Friday.

"I talked with my two counterparts to make the situation better in eastern Ghouta, which was caused by the [Bashar al-Assad] regime. We underlined the need to differ terrorists from civilians," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint news conference after the meeting.

Cavusoglu said there was a need to have different strategies for neutralizing terrorists especially in places where civilians live densely.

"We are also against the going of all terrorists to Idlib [in northwestern Syria]. There, they constitute a threat to the people, opposition and to all of us," he stressed.

Cavusoglu said they are not only sensitive to civilians in eastern Ghouta, but also in al-Foua, Kefraya, east of the Euphrates river. 

Minister slams journalist

He was also asked a provocative question by a so-called "local journalist" about Turkey's Operation Olive Branch.

In response, Cavusoglu said: "I do not see any need to respond to questions asked by Fetullah Terrorist Organization rhetoric. We already made necessary statements about Afrin until today."

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the common efforts of Russia, Turkey and Iran had been considerable considering the tense situation in such areas as eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, al-Foua, Kefraya, Raqqah, Idlib and Hama.

Lavrov also said the U.S. had used force last year over the "groundless reason" of the using of chemical weapons.

"Today, they are threatening in a similar way. It is definitely unacceptable," Lavrov added.

Last April, the U.S. on Thursday struck a Syrian military airbase American officials believed had been used to carry out a deadly suspected chemical attack.  

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran viewed the Astana process as the only successful step to stop the war in Syria.

"Thanks to Astana, people started to return to Syrian territories," Zarif added.

Three foreign ministers also published a joint statement, which stressed the continuity of joint efforts to decrease violence in the field.

The statement put a strong emphasis on the territorial integrity of Syria and added that the next meeting in Astana would be held in mid-May.

The meeting was also a preparation for the leaders' summit on Syria in Istanbul on April 4.

Astana peace talks were launched on Jan. 23-24, 2017 with the aim of putting an end to violence and improving the humanitarian situation in war-torn Syria.

At the eighth round of Astana talks on Dec. 21-22, the guarantor countries established working groups on exchanges of captives and prisoners, the handover of the deceased, identification of the lost, and clarification of historic areas under UNESCO protection.

* Fatih Hafiz Mehmet contributed to this story from Ankara.

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